Horse fair to get permanent home

Travellers attending Seamer Horse Fair
Travellers attending Seamer Horse Fair

PLANS have been submitted to provide a permanent site for travellers visiting the controversial Seamer Horse Fair.

If planning permission is granted then agricultural land, to the north side of the B1261, would get a temporary change of use to provide a suitable area for travellers to stay while visiting Seamer for the annual event.

It follows the relative success of last year’s event, held between Seamer and Crossgates, and Scarborough Council is asking permission to use the same location every year.

More than 150 caravans and 80 horses used the 10-acre site at the July event, but repeats of ugly scenes of previous years, when travellers shunned their designated site and set up camp in Centurion Way, were avoided.

Only relatively minor problems, such as damage to fencing and instances of travellers trespassing into neighbouring fields, were reported.

Jill Low, the council’s planning manager, has recommended that permission be granted as long as the change of use is organised by and remains the responsibility of Scarborough Council. She added: “This is to ensure that the site is operated in a manner that protects the amenities of local residents from serious harm.”

In December 2009 planning 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 – but the permission was initially granted for one year only and the council is seeking to have this clause changed.

The reason given for including the clause was so local planning officers could monitor and review the use of the site before permitting more regular use.

Seamer Parish Council has objected to the application because it is too close to nearby homes and is on a main public highway.

But North Yorkshire Police said that an identified site was beneficial to the community and problems could effectively be managed if it was known when and where the travellers would be.

Last year the site operated for 11 days and accommodated 155 travellers’ caravans as well as a number of traditional bow top caravans, and the council said that a temporary 30-mile-per-hour speed restriction on the road next to the site was also successful.

Previously Andy Skelton, the council’s head of environmental services, said the site represented “the only realistic solution” to the issues surrounding the fair.

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 application is due to be discussed by the council’s planning and development committee tomorrow from 1pm.