THE developer behind Ashbourne’s Waterside Park has denied it is trying to wriggle out of a planning agreement to build a footpath in the town.
Cedar House Investments wrote a letter to the News Telegraph asking whether the public would like the path, which bosses say would be hampered by regular flooding, or whether people would rather see the money spent on a community asset for the town.
The News Telegraph was inundated with responses to the original letter, demanding the footpath was constructed, but the firm insisted many people had contacted it directly with what are said to be ‘very credible’ suggestions that ‘will go a long way to improving the lives of people living in Ashbourne’.
The firm also pointed out the proposed path – part of a planning condition when consent was given for Waterside Park – would not cross the river, a point confirmed by Derbyshire Dales District Council’s director of planning Paul Wilson, who has also spoken to the News Telegraph this week to clarify the facts.
The statement reads: “Cedar House Investments wants to make it absolutely clear that a sum of money has already been allocated for the footpath and our letter was intended to promote a public debate to ensure that the people of Ashbourne were entirely happy with this money being used to construct a multi-user route, which potentially would cost a lot of taxpayers’ money to maintain in the future.
“We want to make it clear this is not an attempt to extricate ourselves from an obligation, but we merely want to ensure the public voice has been heard.
“To this end we have received numerous suggestions, many of them very credible, and which will go a long way to improving the lives of people living in Ashbourne.
“We feel that they are very worthy of a public airing.
“We would comment that there is always a co-ordinated campaign in these cases, which tends to be active but perhaps does not represent the view of the majority.
“People will ask how do we make public the proposals that have been received?
“A leading figure in a long-established public/private body representing Ashbourne has suggested that we might have a public meeting where this matter can be fully discussed.
“We would say, what is to be lost from such a meeting? This would allow everyone to have their say.
“We are currently in discussion with Derbyshire County Council regarding the detailed design of the footpath and we want to assure people that we are not in any way delaying the implementation of the obligation.
“However we want to ensure at the same time that this matter is being fully discussed with the people of Ashbourne. This demonstrates the commitment of Cedar House come what may to invest this sum of money in the local Ashbourne community.”
Planning director Paul Wilson has responded to the statement by confirming the facts surrounding the original planning condition.
In response to the footpath not being intended to cross the River Henmore, Mr Wilson confirmed the statement was correct and that it has never been the intention for the footpath to connect into Waterside Park.
The path, he continued, was not required by the district council at the outset, but was an offer by the developer. Nevertheless, he added, having given that commitment, there is a requirement to complete the riverside walkway under the terms of the planning permission.
Mr Wilson also responded to the potential of flooding on the path (pictured right, in July) and pointed out that the issue of flooding was not identified as a problem when Cedar House Investments initially promoted the scheme.
He also explained that the route would be a two metre wide ‘surfaced path’ with a metre-wide gras verge on one side, maintained as a ‘greenway’ and that the route would be subject to periodic flooding, requiring it to be cleaned and repaired after each flood event.
Mr Wilson has also confirmed that he has commenced enforcement proceedings against Cedar House Investments, although he added that an enforcement notice has not yet been served as it was indicated the firm was intending to comply with its obligations without the authority having to resort to legal action.