Derbyshire County Council addresses planning concerns over sale of picnic site - after 'incorrect wording' on sign

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Derbyshire County Council has moved to clear up confusion over its plans to sell off a picnic site near Darley Dale after a sign appeared at the site suggesting planning permission had been granted to redevelop the land.

The Darley Bridge Picnic Site, on the west side of Station Road, has been listed for auction on April 25 next month with an asking price of £20,000 as the council continues to review its portfolio of assets in an effort to plug the significant budget shortfalls forecast over the coming years.

The site, previously managed by the council’s countryside service, is also known as Darley Dale car park, and is more often used for that purpose, given its proximity to the Derwent Valley Heritage Way, Darley Dale Cricket Club and walking routes along the riverbank.

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So it came as some surprise this week when a sign appeared at the entrance from SDL Property Auctions, with an additional message below stating, “Former recreational site planning permission for alternative use.”

Derbyshire County Council is looking to sell this picnic site and car park next month for around £20,000. (Image: Google)Derbyshire County Council is looking to sell this picnic site and car park next month for around £20,000. (Image: Google)
Derbyshire County Council is looking to sell this picnic site and car park next month for around £20,000. (Image: Google)

It prompted much speculation in neighbourhood forums, given that no one had been notified of any planning application.

Resident Rebecca Broodbakker summed up the concerns, saying: “I assume in no time we’ll see yet another new housing estate.”

However, for now it appears to be a case of mixed message, with the SDL online listing describing its status as: “Potential for alternative use subject to planning consent.”

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A council spokesperson clarified the situation for the Derbyshire Times: “The wording on the sign erected at the site by the auctioneer is incorrect.

“The site does not have planning permission in place for alternative use. If a buyer wanted to change the use of the site they would need to get planning permission from Derbyshire Dales District Council before doing so. We’ve asked the auctioneer to remove the sign and apologies for any confusion which may have been caused.”

It is not immediately obvious what any prospective buyer could do with the site, which is prone to flooding, unless permission was secured to change its use.

The council spokesperson did offer one suggestion while explaining the authority’s reasons for disposing of the land.

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They said: “We’re reviewing all of the buildings and land we own and if we no longer have a need for them, we have a duty to consider all the options for their future use. This includes selling them and reinvesting the money into front line services, helping to protect jobs, reduce our financial deficit, and most importantly keep Council Tax as low as possible in future years.

“Although it is described as a picnic site, this site is a relatively small area of land without any facilities such as benches and tables, and alternative public parking space is available in Darley Dale.

“The plot is isolated from our wider network of countryside sites which makes it costly for us to manage in terms of time and resources, and as we have no means to significantly improve or enhance the site, the decision was taken to sell it to provide an opportunity for a buyer to put it to better use – such as a picnic site with a coffee or ice cream vendor.”

For more information on the auction, see https://tinyurl.com/3yd3hwah.

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