Anger over trav­ellers ‘in­vited’ to stay in town car park

■ A coun­cil­lor has rounded on coun­cil chiefs who ‘qui­etly con­sid­ered us­ing a car park near a town cen­tre beauty spot as a tem­po­rary home for a fam­ily of trav­ellers’ – and even of­fered them the use of a Por­taloo

Ashbourne News Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - By Gareth But­ter­field gareth.but­ter­field@ash­bourne­new­stele­graph.co.uk

ASH­BOURNE’S Fish­pond Meadow car park was be­ing con­sid­ered by coun­cil bosses as a “tem­po­rary” site for trav­ellers who were due to be evicted from Bakewell this week, the News Tele­graph can re­veal.

The fam­ily was about to be forced off their unau­tho­rised en­camp­ment on Mon­day, which would have placed Der­byshire Dales District Coun­cil un­der a statu­tory obli­ga­tion to find them a new site in the district – and, ac­cord­ing to a coun­cil­lor, Ash­bourne’s Park Road over­spill car park was qui­etly be­ing put for­ward as a new venue for their car­a­vans to pitch up in.

The trav­ellers vol­un­tar­ily left the Bakewell site on Sun­day, ahead of the evic­tion, and chose to use Fish­pond Meadow of their own ac­cord, but district coun­cil­lor for Ash­bourne South, Der­mot Mur­phy, says he and fel­low coun­cil­lors were called into a meet­ing on Fri­day and told the Ash­bourne site was be­ing con­sid­ered.

Coun­cil­lor Mur­phy says he and his fel­low Ash­bourne mem­bers were “fu­ri­ous” at the sug­ges­tion a town cen­tre pub­lic amenity close to a beauty spot and next to flats was in line to be­come a per­mit­ted trav­eller camp, so he con­tacted the News Tele­graph to en­sure the pub­lic heard his views.

He said: “The fact they moved here them­selves, with­out be­ing asked to go there by the coun­cil, is ir­rel­e­vant.

“Lo­cal coun­cil­lors were be­ing told at a quickly-con­vened meet­ing on Fri­day that a site close to the cen­tre of Ash­bourne was to be used as a tem­po­rary lo­ca­tion for trav­ellers.

“As a coun­cil­lor I know this site would gen­er­ate con­cern and anger from lo­cal res­i­dents.

“Its suit­abil­ity, I be­lieve, has not re­ally been con­sid­ered prop­erly. We were told it’s the only site avail­able in Der­byshire Dales at short no­tice.

“The phrase ‘tem­po­rary’ was used to ex­plain its use. How long is tem­po­rary? My con­cern is that if this site is to be used un­til a per­ma­nent one can be found and pur­chased, we are look­ing at an un­known length of time. I sug­gest months is rather op­ti­mistic. I’m very happy to be proved wrong.”

Der­byshire Dales District Coun­cil says it will now be fol­low­ing its stan­dard pro­ce­dure for mon­i­tor­ing unau­tho­rised en­camp­ments, while the fam­ily chooses to stay.

The fam­ily, which has stayed at Fish­pond Meadow be­fore, and also spent sev­eral weeks on the QEGS play­ing fields off Cokayne Av­enue in the sum­mer, will be given a Por­taloo to use dur­ing their stay and tem­po­rary fenc­ing has been erected be­tween the car park and a busy foot­path for “safety” rea­sons.

A spokesman for Der­byshire Dales District Coun­cil said: “The unau­tho­rised en­camp­ment at Fish­pond Meadow is the lat­est in a series at lo­ca­tions across the district, all of which have had to be man­aged to some ex­tent by of­fi­cers of this coun­cil.

“While we were aware Fish­pond Meadow was a pos­si­ble new des­ti­na­tion for the Trav­eller fam­ily as we pre­pared to evict them from Bakewell last week, the fam­ily did not re­veal their plans to us and they could just as eas­ily have re­verted to other reg­u­lar lo­ca­tions such as Mat­lock Bath or Doveridge.

“As was the case at Bakewell, we will be ac­tively mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion at Fish­pond Mead­ows and, as a tem­po­rary mea­sure in the in­ter­ests of main­tain­ing pub­lic hy­giene, we will in­stall a Por­taloo there.

“This is an ini­tia­tive that has worked well at other unau­tho­rised sites and is in the best in­ter­ests of this trav­eller fam­ily and the wider com­mu­nity.”

The spokesman said that, be­cause the coun­cil does not have a per­ma­nent site for trav­ellers, their pres­ence at Fish­pond Meadow, if they were in­vited to stay there after the evic­tion, would have been “tol­er­ated for a limited pe­riod of time”.

The author­ity has a le­gal obli­ga­tion to iden­tify a site for trav­ellers fol­low­ing an evic­tion. The spokesman said: “Fish­pond Meadow was in­deed one of the lo­ca­tions within the district coun­cil’s own­er­ship we may have had to con­sider as a tem­po­rary site in the event of a forced evic­tion, as we would have been re­quired by the bailiffs to iden­tify a site for the Trav­ellers to be ‘tol­er­ated at,’ given our le­gal obli­ga­tions to them.

“How­ever, that didn’t hap­pen, the trav­ellers left of their own vo­li­tion and we did not di­rect them to Fish­pond Meadow.

“It should be noted that in the ab­sence of an au­tho­rised site in the Der­byshire Dales, ev­ery site the Trav­ellers choose to pitch up at is unau­tho­rised, but that does not ab­solve us of our le­gal obli­ga­tions.”

It has also emerged that coun­cil­lors are due to meet on Thurs­day next week to dis­cuss a more per­ma­nent so­lu­tion.

The spokesman ex­plained: “As an over­view to our obli­ga­tions to this par­tic­u­lar trav­eller fam­ily un­der hous­ing and plan­ning leg­is­la­tion, the good news is that at a meet­ing next week, our Com­mu­nity and En­vi­ron­ment Com­mit­tee will be asked to en­dorse the po­ten­tial pur­chase of land – yet to be iden­ti­fied - to be used as a per­ma­nent Gypsy and Trav­eller site here in the Der­byshire Dales.”

But Coun­cil­lor Mur­phy says propos­ing to send the fam­ily to a site in the heart of Ash­bourne would have been a poorly-con­ceived de­ci­sion and he wel­comes com­ments and sug­ges­tions from peo­ple liv­ing in the town.

He said: “Set­ting aside our obli­ga­tions, this site in the cen­tre of a busy town like Ash­bourne is a very poor so­lu­tion, how­ever ‘tem­po­rary.’

“I will be mak­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tions to the district coun­cil for an­swers in the next few days. Cross­ing our fin­gers and hop­ing this prob­lem goes away does not strike me as a wise ap­proach.”

Coun­cil­lor Mur­phy can be con­tacted by e-mail­ing der­mot­mur­phy@ der­byshiredales.gov.uk

The fam­ily, which has a mem­ber with spe­cial needs, was in line to move onto an over­grown patch of land at Watery Lane, de­spite lo­cal op­po­si­tion and the pres­ence of badgers.

How­ever ear­lier this year the plan­ning con­sent for four car­a­van pitches lapsed and Der­byshire County Coun­cil with­drew its sup­port for their land to be used be­cause of its po­ten­tial ob­struct­ing of a pro­posed A515 by­pass.

They could be here for months.. but I’m very happy to be proved wrong. Coun­cil­lor Der­mot Mur­phy

Trav­ellers have camped on Fish­pond Meadow

Coun­cil­lor Der­mot Mur­phy and the site where thetrav­eller fam­ily has pitched up

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