Derbyshire Dales District Council is to consider submitting a planning application for a permanent Traveller site at Homesford.
Councillors could also give the go-ahead this week for negotiations to take place with the landowners to agree a price for the site – with the proviso it cannot exceed an independent valuation commissioned by the District Council.
A meeting of the District Council’s Corporate Committee will hear on Thursday (19 September) that any contract to buy the wood yard at Homesford should be dependent on a successful planning application – and further public consultation will take place before planning permission can be considered.
Meanwhile, after officers were instructed in July to continue to explore possible alternative sites, four more have been identified at Bolehill, Turnditch, Bakewell and Hulland Ward.
This week’s meeting will be asked to decide on the validity of the four sites using an evaluation matrix that takes into account many relevant factors, including site size, ownership, availability, proximity to residential properties, vehicular access, bus routes, shops and schools, ground conditions and access to health services. Ten other potential sites were rejected earlier this year using the matrix as a guide.
The Bolehill site comprises two grassed areas alongside the B5036 road next to the Black Rocks car park.
The Turnditch site is an undulating paddock half a mile outside the village of Turnditch, while the Bakewell site comprises two paddocks to the north of Stanedge Road, fronting onto the A6 Buxton Road. The land at Hulland Ward is part of the garden of Highfield House, but has a valuation of £495,000.
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.
As part of the consultation, local people were asked to suggest suitable alternative sites – but none came forward.
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.
By the end of this month, a temporary Traveller site in Rowsley, granted planning permission earlier this year, will be ready for the Traveller family for a maximum period of nine months from the first day of occupation.