Local people are being invited to assist in the ongoing search for an appropriate permanent site for Gypsies and Travellers in the Derbyshire Dales.
The District Council isn’t currently meeting its duty in the recently adopted Local Plan to provide six permanent pitches for the Travelling community, resulting in continuing unauthorised encampments in parts of the Dales including Ashbourne, Bakewell, Doveridge and Matlock Bath.
The permanent site designated in the Local Plan - land at Watery Lane in Ashbourne - is no longer available after the landowner, Derbyshire County Council, decided it could be needed for a future A515 by-pass.
Now the District Council, which has ruled out all land in its and the county council's ownership, is inviting local people to suggest appropriate parcels of private land for a permanent site for Gypsies and Travellers. The potential sites must be inside the Derbyshire Dales boundary but not within the Peak District National Park, where the Local Plan has no authority.
Findings will be considered alongside sites put forward by a team of consultants who have been scouring the district since the start of the year.
- It's simple to suggest a site by completing this online form.
The District Council's Chief Executive Paul Wilson said:
"Local people will be aware that this is probably the most difficult ongoing challenge we as a council face. Over recent years we have explored the potential of every single piece of local land in public ownership, and while some are possibly suitable for short periods of time, none - apart from Watery Lane - meet all the criteria for a permanent site.
"In the meantime our communities are being impacted by unauthorised encampments, complicated by our legal obligation to a particular Traveller family under homelessness legislation.
"I absolutely accept that this is potentially confusing for residents of the Dales as this family clearly live in caravans. However, they have no site on which they can legally site these caravans and therefore this particular legislation, which we are bound to accept, requires us to provide a site, rather than a home. If that can't be done then, legally, we have to provide an alternative temporary solution, and so the cycle continues.”
In November last year councillors agreed a search should begin for land in private ownership or offered for sale on the open market with the intention of the District Council purchasing it.
"While consultants continue to assist us in this project, we don't want to leave any stone unturned,” Mr Wilson added. That’s why we are inviting local people to suggest appropriate parcels of land. Any land put forward does not necessarily have to be owned by the person submitting the site, but obviously it helps the research process if they have an idea who the landowner is."
The District Council is looking for sites no smaller than 1000 square metres or approximately one quarter of an acre. Ideally, suggested sites:
- will not have a significant detrimental impact on neighbouring residential amenity or other land uses
- will have safe and satisfactory vehicular and pedestrian access
- will be situated in a suitable location in terms of local amenities and services, including schools, shops, health services and employment opportunities
- will be capable of providing adequate on-site services for water supply, mains electricity, facilities for recycling and waste disposal and foul and surface water drainage
- will enable vehicle movements, parking and servicing to take place, as well as enabling access for service and emergency vehicles
- will not be situated within an area at high flooding risk
- will be capable of providing adequate levels of privacy for site occupiers
- will be suitable taking account ground conditions, land stability and other environmental risks and nuisances.
We've prepared a list of frequently asked questions about Gypsies and Travellers.