No apology as permanent traveller site plans near Matlock are pushed forward

Council leaders have said there is “no need to apologise” to Dales residents after plans for a permanent traveller site in their village were pushed ahead without notice.

Monday, 12th October 2020, 12:15 pm
The Knabhall Lane site is said to be the village’s former tip

Derbyshire Dales District Council was called to say sorry for the lack of consultation over the now earmarked permanent site in Knabhall Lane, Tansley, approved in September.

Coun Steve Flitter, who represents the Tansley area on the district council, asked whether Coun Garry Purdy, leader of the authority, would apologise “for totally ignoring the wishes and rights of local residents and taxpayers in order to secure a site for travellers without full consultation”.

This comes as a surging number of formal complaints from Tansley parish councillors and residents have been submitted to the district council over the 11th-hour traveller site decision.

However, Coun Sue Hobson, the authority’s deputy leader, responding on behalf of Coun Purdy, who was absent, said: “The proper time and place for public consultation is through the planning process. That process will take place once a planning application has been submitted and the people of Tansley will have every opportunity to put their views forward.

“Therefore, there is no need to apologise to them, or to anyone else.”

Coun Flitter said the decision caused controversy throughout his ward and asked if the residents had been served well over the Knabhall Lane decision.

Coun Hobson said the officers and members of the authority acted “properly and correctly”.

After the meeting, Coun Vicki Raynes, chairman of Tansley Parish Council, said: “The Conservative majority continue to close ranks, an apology or some form of regret might have been prudent, their arrogance is quite appalling.

“Coun Sue Hobson glibly telling everyone that the constitution has been followed, the majority Conservative group obviously have absolutely no knowledge or understanding of its content.

“These ill-informed councillors are taking decisions on our behalf.

“Sadly they seem prepared to continue along this rather precarious route. However, Tansley has gone beyond an apology, Coun Hobson.”

Meanwhile, during the meeting, Coun Mike Ratcliffe asked if the authority would hand the decisions on planning applications for the proposed traveller site to an independent organisation.

He said this would be to “provide clear, transparent, democratic decision-making and avoid any accusations of partisan self-interest on the part of this council”.

Coun Hobson said there was “no provision” for a planning application to be decided by someone outside of the planning authority (the district council). She said the decision should remain with democratically-elected local members.

Coun Hobson said that any councillors who have made a predetermined opinion either in favour or against the proposed traveller site should not take part in the decision-making process.

Failing to do so, she said, would be a breach of the councillor code of conduct.

Many councillors on the district council made their opinions known on the proposed traveller site options during the authority’s meeting on the subject in September.

This saw a site in Watery Lane, Clifton, near Ashbourne, kicked out.

More than 360 residents and the district’s Conservative MP Sarah Dines objected to the plan to house travellers there permanently at a cost over 30 years of more than £1 million in rent.

The “secret” site, near a Shrovetide goal, had been touted for the past year.

District councillors representing Tansley, Tansley Parish Council and Tansley residents said they had no idea the Knabhall Lane site was a remote possibility of becoming home to travellers until the meeting’s papers were published a week before.

They decried the perceived lack of consultation and public involvement and the council’s alleged lack of openness and transparency on the issue.

Despite the short time frame to lodge objections, 80 were submitted to the council over the Tansley site.

Several Dales councillors were “baffled, bemused and bewildered” that the Tansley site was even being considered due to its rural location and lack of resources for basic human needs.

The Knabhall Lane site is said to be the village’s former tip and sits opposite a camping site on a single-track lane and a lofty 800 feet above sea level.

It does not have access to clean water or electricity, which the council would have to provide temporary and permanent connections to at an as yet unknown cost to the taxpayer.

The traveller family in question are said to have concerns about the “remoteness” of the Tansley site and have said it is not their preferred geographic location.

Derbyshire Dales District Council has a legal duty to find a permanent home for one particular traveller family, with links to the Ashbourne area, which have registered as homeless.

It has not provided a permanent traveller site for several decades, despite a legal obligation to do so, a failure which its leadership openly admit is not acceptable and has “plagued us for far too long”.

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