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Council closes Bakewell car park after travellers moved onto the site

More than two dozen caravans have moved onto a Derbyshire car park, forcing the district council to close the site – and more traveller families feared to be “on the way”.

A family of travellers has been staying on the Agricultural Business Centre car park in Bakewell.

Derbyshire Dales District Council was granted a court order to evict them months ago but with the restriction that the family could not be moved until Covid-19 restrictions were lifted.

Now the authority says it has had to close off the 420-space car park until further notice due to more groups of travellers moving on to the site in the last few days.

It also says “local intelligence suggests other groups may be on the way”.

A Bakewell resident, who did not want to be named, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that there were now more than two dozen caravans on the site.

They said: “It is an absolute mess. It is like a second Appleby.”

The Appleby Horse Fair, hosted in Appleby, Cumbria, is an annual gathering of thousands of travellers.

“There is toilet paper and other mess and rubbish everywhere and it is just horrendous,” the resident said.

“The tension in Bakewell is now very high, largely because the travellers have been coming and going from the site all through lockdown.

“I don’t know why they would ever leave once they are provided with water and electricity.”

A district council spokesperson said: “While we are conscious closing the ABC car park will put added pressure on Bakewell’s other car parks going into the coming weekend, we cannot risk the site being compromised further.

“This is an incredibly difficult site to operate access-wise as the ABC continues to host regular livestock markets, which are vital to our local farming community. The nature of the vehicles they use means that height barriers, for example, are impractical.”

Tim Braund, the district council’s director of regulatory services, told the LDRS in April that the authority obtained a court order to evict a specific traveller family on March 17.

The authority has a legal obligation to find a permanent site for this family – who have registered as homeless.

It has failed to find a permanent site for travellers for several decades.

A secret site was announced in October last year and is believed to be a coal yard in Clifton, near Ashbourne – the family’s preferred area due to family ties and local services – but the council will not confirm or deny this.

Mr Braund had said: “We continue to look for a permanent home for this family of travellers, but at the present time there is no agreement or planning application to present to members.

“There was a period of time before the current coronavirus lockdown where a family member was suffering from a terminal illness and receiving care from a GP and care home in Bakewell.

“The court would not grant an order to evict the family over this period.

Mr Braund had said: “In granting it (the court order on March 17) the judge specified that we should not evict until such time that the movement restrictions that were then being introduced were lifted.”

The council now says it is preparing an application to courts to “test the strength of this guidance”.

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