Council plans for nursery site put future of Buxton community farm in jeopardy

Madeline Hall, from the Serpentine Community Farm.
Madeline Hall, from the Serpentine Community Farm.

The Serpentine Community Farm is facing an uncertain future after High Peak Borough Council revealed it was potentially looking to reclaim the site for redevelopment.

Serpentine Community Farm is a community growing space in the centre of Buxton, run by volunteers on the site of the council’s former plant nursery at Serpentine Walks.

Madeline Hall, from the farm, announced this week: “The project is now in jeopardy as council officers have given early notice of the team’s intent to revisit a planning application for residential development of both the council parks depot and the old plant nursery.”

The community farm pays the council a peppercorn rent for the land it uses.

High Peak Council said it was facing ‘significant financial challenges’ and was looking at the possible sale of some council assets.

As a result, the authority said it anticipated applying for planning permission on the farm site in the future.

Coun Tony Ashton, leader of the borough council, said: “While we understand the disappointment this is causing for the community farm, the potential sale of the nursery site is one of those difficult choices as it has significant potential value and the money is needed to underpin other priorities. We’ve offered the farm a number of alternative sites plus a contribution to their expenses, however they have said that the alternatives are unacceptable.

“We are working hard to help the farm find a more permanent site and will continue to do so. Should planning permission not be secured then we will review the site’s use.”

Volunteers at the farm have looked at 14 different alternative locations, but said a combination of factors meant they were unsuitable for an urban community garden. Madeline said the farm was continuing to operate as normal.

“It is a bitter twist that the council needs to sell this community asset to raise money for other community assets, she added. “We have not been given our formal notice to leave, but we hope we can establish a constructive dialogue with the council as we go forward.”

Other locations are ‘unsuitable’

Ashwood Park was among the locations to be considered as a new home for the community farm, but was ruled out due to roadside pollution, as was land next to Cunningdale Allotments as it was deemed “prone to vandalism”.

Other sites deemed unsuitable by the group included the former railway sidings, land at Bishops Lane, the latter due to its distance from the town centre, and land off Hogshaw Villas Road which is to be developed.