Volunteers who turned a Chesterfield wasteland into a flourishing community garden feel ‘demoralised’ after development plans that signal the end of the project were given the green light.
In a narrow 5-4 vote, Chesterfield Borough Council’s planning committee agreed to proposals to build an assisted living complex at a car park off Ashgate Road, blocking access to the Inspire Community Garden.
More than 75 people formally objected to the plans, by William May Developments, with dozens of them packing the public gallery on Monday afternoon to witness the debate.
Steve Sampson, garden trustee, has been tending the site with a team of volunteers since 2016, transforming disused scrubland into a fertile fruit and vegetable ‘organic demonstration garden’ with glasshouses, polytunnels and pond.
It is understood that another charity, Fairplay, also operate a garden at the site but will be unaffected by the new development.
Steve said: “We’ve been told pededstrian access will still be available via Alexandra Road West but without vehicle access, there is no way we can receive deliveries of compost and other supplies the garden needs to survive.
“So this is, effectively, the end. It’s a non-starter. I just wish our access had been protected.
“We are gutted. We’re quite demoralised about it all.”
A spokesman for Chesterfield Borough Council said: “Our planning committee carefully considered the application and the objections to it.
“We understand the good work of the Inspire Community Garden group and have no wish to prevent this.
“However, the application had to be decided on relevant planning grounds only.
“We hope that the volunteers will talk to all the landowners to explore whether other vehicle options for access to the land can be achieved in addition to the pedestrian access they already have.”
Ian Jowett, director of William May Developments, said: “We have met with Inspire Community Garden onsite and advised them that they will have access via the road at the bottom through Fairplay – who they sub-let off.
“We were led to believe by the Council that Fairplay had made Inspire aware of this and we purchased this site on the basis there were not any rights of access to the southern boundary.
“When we double checked this Chesterfield Borough Council confirmed that this was the case.
“Our plans have therefore always incorporated a two-metre high retaining structure along that boundary.
“If we were to retain parking and access through the site for the community garden this would have a significant impact on the land value, and we can only assume that Chesterfield Borough Council did not retain access rights for this reason.”
“We can fully appreciate the concerns of Inspire, however we were under the impression that this access had already been arranged with the Council.”