Horse fair chief looks for new site

THE organiser of a controversial horse sale said he was looking for a new site for the event after prosecution threats over a caravan site from Breckland Council.

THE organiser of a controversial horse sale said he was looking for a new site for the event after prosecution threats over a caravan site from Breckland Council.

Tyrone Roberts, who runs the biannual horse sale in Watton said the fair, which was due to take place over the weekend, has been cancelled.

He said the farmer who currently owns the site decided against letting it out for the event, after pressure from local people and the council.

Thousands of people, including many gipsy and traveller families, attend the sale every May and September, parking their caravans on land at Thetford Road next to where the fair is held.

The fair which has been staged in Watton since 1971, has been growing year on year, causing disquiet among residents who fear an increase in crime, noise and litter in the neighbouring area and wood.

Earlier this week John Milton, woodlands officer for the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, said the event had started as “comparatively small” but had grown considerably in recent years.

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He said people attending the horse sale used the wood as a toilet and had bonfires and parties in the wood.

“I would say it is very much in the public interest for Breckland Council to ask the owner of the field or the person who runs the horse fair to abide by the law. It is not unusual for us to have to clear up bonfires and also a huge amount of beer bottles and excrement,” he added.

Residents have been trying to enlist the support of Breckland's overview and scrutiny committee in controlling the event, by requiring organisers to apply for planning permission. But council officers repeatedly insisted that the horse sale did not need planning permission as it was a temporary activity held for less than 28 days.

“I have been battling with Breckland for three and a half years to get something done to control this,” said Watton town councillor Keith Gilbert. “It would give the green light to anyone with a field to organise an event and park caravans on it.”

Following the event in May, Breckland officers gathered evidence proving the land had been used for habitation and not just for temporary activity, threatening with prosecution.

But in a report which is to be discussed by the council's overview and scrutiny committee tomorrow, they admit that even legal proceedings may not solve the problem.

“There is a considerable risk, given that the fairs will continue, that a prosecution may lead to the withdrawal of the use of the land for the stationing of caravans, while 30 to 50 caravans will still arrive in the vicinity at the time of the fairs,” the report says.

Last night Mr Roberts said he had always ensured the area was left clean at the end of the event.

“We have been cleaning the wood after each event,” he said. “Travellers may have other lifestyles than we do and we have always cleaned the excrement after the event. We haven't seen any cans, but I'm sure if there had been any we would have collected them and left the wood clean.”

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