Desperate owners’ Gypsy site warning

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The owners of land shortlisted for a Dales’ traveller site have warned they will withdraw the plot from consideration if the purchase is not confirmed by the end of February.

Paul and Andrea Hodgkinson, who own the Wood Yard in Homesford, are relying on money from the sale to settle their long-running battle with the Norwegian Government.

In 2006 the couple sold their Dales home to buy a 200-acre mountain farmstead in the Telemark region of south Norway.

But shortly afterwards, they received a letter from the Statens Vegvesen, the Norwegian equivalent of the Department for Transport, saying the previous owner had sold part of the land a second time to the Norwegian government.

Mr Hodgkinson said: “The additional land sale was done without our knowledge and was completed only after we had bought our farm.”

A lengthy battle ensued – which involved East Midlands MEP Glenys Willmott as well as a much-publicised petition – and the Norwegian government eventually relented.

But in recent months, the Norwegian bank responsible for the couple’s mortgage have demanded full payment on the farm – or they will repossess the property.

Mr Hodgkinson said: “If we can get Derbyshire Dales District Council to confirm they are going to purchase the site in writing and we can agree a price, then we can show that to the court.”

The couple have until the end of April to pay the balance on the property – or they will lose everything.

“If the council cannot confirm, though, the site is not going to be available as we are on a severe time scale here.”

But a spokesperson for Derbyshire Dales District Council said that it was made “absolutely clear” at last month’s meeting that the authority would keep working to identify other sites to accommodate a homeless traveller family.

The spokesperson said: “It would be totally inappropriate to commit public funds at this early stage to a site that has no planning permission, might not be the eventual selected location and where local people have not yet had an opportunity to comment in any detail.”