Derbyshire Dales council told it has no legal power to buy Starkholmes allotments
The battle to save the historic Starkholmes allotments in Matlock took a new twist this week, as legal officers informed Derbyshire Dales District Council that it has no authority to buy the land.
Members of the Starkholmes Allotments Association had hoped the council could step in and use compulsory purchase powers to rescue their century-old plots, thought to have a combined value of up to £1.7million.
Tenants were given notice to vacate the two-acre site in July, as the owner plans to sell it for development.
The council’s governance and resources committee was due to reach a final decision on the matter on Thursday, November 18, and officers had already recommended it be refused – but the late arrival of the legal assessment ended the debate before it began.
Explaining its position, a district council spokesman said: “The Local Government Act 1972 stipulates that where a local parish or town council has duties under any of the allotment acts dated between 1908 and 1950, if the area has a parish council the overall responsibility for allotments lies with the parish council and the district council cannot take any action.
“The responsible authority in the case of the Starkholmes allotment holders is therefore Matlock Town Council.”
The governance committee did go on to discuss other aspects of the situation, and how it might still work with the town council to find a solution. Councillors were in general agreement that they wished to help save what one called “a jewel in the crown of Matlock”.
Questions were raised about the valuation of the land, and how the council might use its powers as the planning authority to protect the site from development, and other available options.
Council leader Garry Purdy said he had met personally with the landowner, who had expressed disappointment that his offers to provide alternative allotment sites had not been taken up by the town council.
With further discussions now expected between all parties, the committee resolved to pause a potential Community Asset Transfer of land owned by the district at the rear of Starkholmes Village Hall, which could be given to the town council or village hall as a possible alternative site for the allotments.