COUNCILLORS have still to decide on a permanent site for travellers visiting the controversial Seamer Horse Fair and have instead opted to extend the temporary period covering last year’s camp.
Andy Skelton, Scarborough Council’s head of environmental services, had hoped that the agricultural land to the north of the B1261 – between Crossgates and Seamer – could be approved as the regular site during the July event after it proved a success last year.
But members of the council’s Planning and Development Committee felt that one year was not enough time to make an assessment and that it was probably a success because it was used during a spell of particularly good weather.
Mr Skelton said it had proved difficult to find a suitable site for the fair and he did not want a repeat of the ugly confrontations in 2008 and 2009 when travellers set up an unofficial camp in nearby Centurion Way.
He said: “Last year the site was quickly returned to agricultural use. It wasn’t full and we managed to accommodate all cars on the site.”
Mr Skelton added that there was a minimum of disruption last year when compared with previous years. “I would remind members if there is no planning decision today it isn’t the end of the process,” he said.
Cllr Lucy Haycock, who spoke at Thursday’s meeting as a Seamer ward councillor, urged committee members not to give free rein by making the site permanent for the annual “invasion”.
She said: “I have been involved with this for 28 years. From experience regarding the Seamer camp, and also in other parts of the country, the situation can change very quickly and become volatile. Residents feel it’s in the wrong place. When it comes to travellers there is no shortage of money. Have priorities changed in this economic climate?
“Give it another trial period for a year, or whatever, for a long-term solution. The officers should be going back to the drawing board because the residents do feel let down.”
Cllr Jane Mortimer, the committee chairman, reminded members that last year the site was deemed suitable and permission was granted on a temporary basis for one year.
Cllr David Jeffels said he could support the application to make the site permanent after just one year in good weather. He added: “If it had repeated the previous two years with heavy rain it might have been a very different scenario.”
Cllr Colin Haddington said he felt it was a good choice compared with what had happened in previous years and it was important to find a suitable permanent site.
He said: “The title is Seamer Horse Fair. It is a tradition. It may not be as famous as Appleby but it is well-known.”
Last year more than 150 caravans and 80 horses used the 10-acre site with only relatively minor problems, such as damage to fencing and instances of travellers trespassing into neighbouring fields, being reported.
In December 2009 planning permission was granted for the use of the 10 acres of land as a temporary caravan site for travellers attending the Seamer Horse Fair for up to 21 days a year.
Scarborough Council spent £95,000 preparing the site for the 2010 event, and recouped £5,500 from the daily £5 per caravan charge which the site users were told to pay.
However many of the costs, such as the £53,000 spent on new fencing around Centurion Way, were described by the council as one-offs.
The committee voted to grant a two-year extension to the trial period.