A WOODYARD at Homesford near Matlock has been identified as a possible site for a family of travellers who need a home in the Derbyshire Dales.
The family, who have applied to Derbyshire Dales District Council for assistance under the Housing Act, are currently at Bakewell Showground while the council hurriedly searches for a suitable location.
The district council’s corporate committee met last week to debate 11 possible sites for the travellers, including several in Ashbourne.
Now, although the site at Homesford has been put forward for consultation, the district council remains on the hunt for a potentially better spot for the traveller family to live - possibly in the Ashbourne area.
At the meeting held on Tuesday, January 22, Councillor Bob Cartwright said: “We have to consider Ashbourne again. They have a member of their family who requires relatively constant medical treatment that he currently gets at St Oswald’s Hospital. He should be able to continue his relationship with the medical team in that area.
“I think the priority should still be to find a suitable site in Ashbourne.”
The Derbyshire Gypsy Liaison Group is set to remain in close consultation with the district council as a suitable site is sought.
Five potential sites identified by Derbyshire County Council were withdrawn just days before the meeting, as were areas off Mayfield Road, Ashbourne.
The site eventually chosen to go forward as a candidate for the traveller family’s new home was the woodyard at Homesford, although grave concerns about the plot were voiced by Councillor Garry Purdy.
He said: “County council officers fought long and hard for a lot of years to get the Derwent Valley registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“I’m a bit upset at the least that this is under consideration.”
Campaigners from Ashbourne Allotments Association and Ashbourne Aware attended the meeting and spoke to the committee during the public participation session, despite sites at Mayfield Road being struck from the list ahead of the meeting.
Ashbourne Aware’s Peter Fox said: “This leaves one site that has been recommended by officers.
“To try to introduce sites that have already been dismissed would result in the farce of a planning authority applying to itself for planning permission which it’s own officers don’t recommend.”
In a statement released after the meeting, a district council spokesman said: “We totally understand that the decision to take forward only one site from the list of 11 presented to Tuesday’s corporate committee special meeting is a relief for many local people, but will be unpopular with those opposed to the Homesford woodyard site.
“However, we want to make it absolutely clear that the eventual creation of a traveller site at Homesford is far from a foregone conclusion.
“The district council will now start a thorough public consultation exercise on the Homesford site and report back to the corporate committee before any further consideration can be given to taking the Homesford site to a further stage, which would be a formal planning application.
“In the meantime, we will be talking again to the Derbyshire Gypsy Liaison Group in an attempt to identify new alternative potential sites in the Derbyshire Dales that could be considered alongside Homesford woodyard.
“While the choice of Homesford was not even unanimously popular among members who voted on Tuesday, we must reiterate the district council’s legal obligation to identify a site for the traveller family in question.
“Members fully understand that the legal duty to offer suitable accommodation is absolute and cannot be discharged unless a suitable offer of accommodation is made.
“If we chose to ignore this duty, it could result in costly legal action against the council that would have to be borne by the council tax payers of the Derbyshire Dales, and the duty to find suitable accommodation would still remain.
“A formal planning application for a temporary site for the traveller family in Rowsley for a maximum period of nine months has now been submitted, and public comments are currently being invited.”
The controversy over the traveller site began in November last year when a planning application was made for a traveller’s site at Watery Lane, Ashbourne. The application was to be considered by the southern area planning committee, but was pulled from the agenda after a lack of consultation sparked outrage among townsfolk and council members alike.