DISTRICT councillors have decided to push through a site in Homesford, near Matlock to the planning stage as they near the end of their search for a suitable home for a family of travellers.
The authority, which is duty-bound to find a site for the family, has dismissed a shortlist of available sites, including one in Hulland Ward and another in Turnditch in favour of what it feels is the most suitable plot, at Homesford Wood Yard.
Although the site will still have to gain planning approval, at a meeting last week, councillors gave the go-ahead for negotiations to take place with the wood yard’s owners to agree a price for the site.
Negotiations could still fall flat if, as with the site in Hulland Ward, the agreed price exceeds an independent valuation and is deemed to be on offer above market value.
At a meeting on Thursday, the corporate committee also agreed that any contract to buy the land should be dependent on a successful planning application and further consultation will now take place with people living in the area.
Five new sites in total were submitted to the meeting for consideration and 10 other potential sites were rejected earlier this year using a ‘matrix’ to weigh up the possibility of buying and converting the land.
A special meeting will now be held, along with site visits, to examine the potential of the remaining two alternative sites – both at Bolehill. No more available sites are currently being considered in the Ashbourne area.
A spokesman for the authority said: “Ultimately the District Council only needs to successfully identify one permanent site, with Homesford currently the most advanced.
“The District Council has a legal duty to offer suitable accommodation to the traveller family in question and has to make a suitable offer of accommodation.
“Ignoring this duty could result in costly legal action that would have to be borne by Derbyshire Dales Council Tax payers - and the duty would still remain.”
At the end of July, the District Council published the results of a detailed community consultation on the Homesford site, which at that time was the only feasible permanent solution identified by the Derbyshire Gypsy Liaison Group (DGLG).
The consultation process, which ended in April, included a public meeting at which local residents, businesses and the parish council were invited to have their say. Feedback was also invited by post, via email and online to a series of questions about the wood yard site.