If you go down to the woods today…
By Chris Hurrell on behalf of Save Ecclesbourne Glen (SEG)
Save Ecclesbourne Glen (SEG) would like to respond to Councillor Colin Fitzgerald’s comments made in Hugh Sullivan’s article, entitled ‘Going Nowhere’, in issue 105 of HIP.
Councillor Fitzgerald states that it was a “point of principle” not to release into the public domain the Coffey 2 report concerning the landslip in order to maintain good relations with Rocklands. From this statement it would appear as if the Council are more concerned with maintaining a good relationship with Rocklands at the expense of the Country Park and to the detriment of local residents and visitors alike. Further geotechnical investigations would have cost £37,000, but significantly more has been spent in legal expenses and officer time in suppressing this information. HBC’s “positive relationship” with Rocklands continues as no enforcement action has been taken against Rocklands for unauthorised activities on the lower slopes, which have contributed to the landslip. HBC have not enforced the imposed screening proposal for the two-storey holiday let. The new caravan site licence seems weak, discretionary and unenforceable, the onus being on Rocklands to rectify the damage caused by the landslip at their own discretion and to carry out their own monitoring of the landslip and any potential slippage within the caravan park, while any information recorded is also to be kept from the public domain.
Councillor Fitzgerald claims that the “risk of litigation was not worth taking”, in respect of the Coffey 2 report being released into the public domain. It is unclear what the risk could be as it was an ICO decision that the document should be released and not HBC’s.
Councillor Fitzgerald has rejected the possibility of seeking grant funding for restoration works in the glen, saying “there is no specific project at the glen to fit the funding criteria”. SEG believe that carrying out the recommendations of Coffey 2 (at an estimated cost of £37k) would be a highly appropriate project. No explanation as to why the
grant application was inappropriate has been given.
Councillor Fitzgerald states there “would be a minimum of £100,000 in engineering costs” to restore the glen. This is the first time this figure has been quoted and SEG are unaware of any report that provides this cost for restoration.
SEG have been trying to obtain information on the landslip through correspondence with the Council and have been forced to obtain information through ‘FOI/EIR’ as the Council will not answer our questions directly and have put many of our requests on hold because of impending appeals – some remain unanswered after more than a year. SEG have now discovered, through an FOI request, that there are further Coffey reports on the landslip that have not been released into the public domain. These include reports from 2015 and 2016 and a recent report into the stability of the landslip.
SEG have written to Councillor Fitzgerald requesting clarification on the interview and he has replied stating that he has “no further comment to make.” This is regrettable as the Council has maintained that they wish to work with the local community with the aim of reopening the footpaths within the Glen – this is what we have hoped for and we would happily work with HBC to ensure that their aims and ours are achieved.
SEG have requested a meeting with Councillor Fitzgerald in the hope that we can move forward in an open and transparent manner.
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