Conservative Cllr Lee Wares has learnt from Council staff that the projected cost of extending the Horsdean traveller site is likely to rise from £1.7m to £2.4m, an increase of £700,000. Although the original £1.7 million would have been covered by a Government grant, the £700,000 overspend will now have to be met by council taxpayers.

The existing site of 23 transit pitches will be converted to 12 permanent pitches and 21 transit pitches. With minimal works proposed to the 21 transit pitches, the new 12 permanent pitches are thought to now be costing around £2.4m; a staggering £200k per pitch.

Cllr Lee Wares said “it is an unbelievable amount of money to be spent on essentially creating 12 concrete hard stands each with a toilet and shower hut; for £200k you could build a fabulous four bedroom house”.

This extra £700,000 also appears to exclude the costs associated with any temporary site that might be established should Horsdean’s redevelopment take place.

As the Horsdean site is directly over a man-made adit (tunnel) that collects water drawn by Patcham pumping station, the Environment Agency requires expensive drainage systems and pollution control measures to be installed (as well as flood defences) to protect the City’s drinking water supply.

Cllr Lee Wares added “These measures however are not the end of the matter. The Environment Agency has dictated that no fuels, paints, bleaches, cleaning detergents and other like chemicals and products must be used or stored on site. This is to prevent the pollution control measures being degraded as well as the risk of contamination of the drinking water supply. However, this, practically, makes it impossible for travelling families to use the site”

“I’m also concerned that once all this money has been spent, the 21 transit pitches that could accommodate 100-150 people will only be served with four toilets as opposed to the permanent pitches that have a toilet each. It’s hardly a healthy, proper and reasonable solution for the travelling community”

Conservative Group Leader Cllr Geoffrey Theobald said “This is a totally unacceptable situation. Not only will risks remain to the City’s water supply but Council taxpayers will have to fork out an extra £700,000. Cllr Wares has rightly asked the Administration to suspend this project immediately so that urgent reviews of the health risks and funding can be investigated. With the project apparently due to start in 4-6 weeks’ time it is astonishing that no Committee has been briefed or asked for funds by Council officers”.

Cllr Lee Wares further advised that despite numerous requests for information from the Council, specific details have not been provided. This has now forced him to submit Freedom of Information requests. He added “it is really worrying when Councillors have to resort to making FOI requests”.