Council to spend thousands testing safety of planned traveller camp site on contaminated former landfill

A Derbyshire council is to spend thousands of pounds to see if it is safe to put a vulnerable traveller family on a contaminated former landfill.

Friday, 2nd July 2021, 10:18 am
Travellers have been staying at Matlock Station car park

Derbyshire Dales Council officers are also planning to temporarily allow travellers to camp on seven site, due to it continuing to fail its legal duties to have a permanent spot to direct families to.

This is a self-confessed failure from the district council on an issue which has dragged on for decades and is still without a final solution.

At a meeting on Thursday, June 8, councillors are due to approve spending £25,000 on further assessments on the site at Knabhall Lane, Tansley – which has been earmarked as the district’s future permanent traveller site for nearly a year.

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Council officers have run into a number of significant issues on the site, with the largest being that it sits on a former landfill.

Initial council investigations have found that the Knabhall Lane site was used as a small gravel pit and may have been backfilled with “domestic waste” up until the 1960s, a report details.

Contamination from the site could pose a risk to future residents and the instability of the ground, due to the loose materials underneath it, also represent issues for putting in foundations for wash-block buildings and for utilities, a report says.

Putting utilities in place, including electricity, sewer connections and fresh water is also proving a key issue, which had been raised when the isolated, rural site was debated last year.

A traveller family which the council has a legal duty to find accommodation for are currently being allowed to stay at the Matlock Station car park and have repeatedly said they would not use the Tansley site.

Council officers have recommended that seven sites in the borough are made temporary tolerated sites for travellers while investigations of Knabhall Lane continue, these are:

Agricultural Business Centre, Bakewell

Old Station Close, Rowsley

Matlock Station Car Park

Artists Corner Car Park, Matlock Bath

Matlock Bath Station Car Park

Land at Middleton Road, Wirksworth

Fishpond Meadows Overspill Car Park, Ashbourne

These are all sites at which travellers have either previously camped or been directed to and chosen not to occupy. All of these sites have also previously triggered vast amounts of local opposition.

Officers have suggested that stays at any one of the seven sites should be limited to no more than eight weeks at any one time, subject to “extraordinary circumstances” on health and welfare grounds. Movement from sites has been heavily restricted during pandemic lockdowns.

Council officers write: “Officers recognise that a system of consent for these negotiated stopping places may not be popular, but nevertheless feel it is the only effective way of managing the encampments of the homeless families until a permanent site is available.

“As such, it will be necessary for members to accept that these sites will be used from time to time.”

The council is also looking to spend £10,000 installing height barriers on a number of “vulnerable” council-owned car park sites including Temple Car Park, Matlock Bath; the Agricultural Business Centre, Bakewell; and the Lido Car Park,Matlock – in order to prevent access by travellers.