Ex-Dragons' Den star fails to meet Peak District planning enforcement deadline

The Peak District National Park Authority is set to take action against a former television personality and her co-owners of an ecologically sensitive woodland near Cressbrook after they failed to meet a deadline for reinstating the land to its original condition.
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As previously reported, Rachel Elnaugh – one of the original investors on BBC series Dragons’ Den – led a group who purchased Cressbrook Dale from the nearby Stanton Estate in 2022, with a plan to create an eco-, wellness and spiritual retreat and food forest.

It soon became apparent the project entailed engineering groundworks and changes to the use and appearance of the land which did not have planning consent from the park authority.

After the landowners failed to heed a temporary stop notice in July 2022, the authority issued a enforcement notice requiring the landowners remove the new hardstand parking area, steps, a path and teepee by August 22, 2023, before reinstating its original condition completely by Wednesday, November 22.

The woodland around Cressbrook Dale is categorised among the most ecologically sensitive areas in the national park. (Photo: Jason Chadwick/Derbyshire Times)The woodland around Cressbrook Dale is categorised among the most ecologically sensitive areas in the national park. (Photo: Jason Chadwick/Derbyshire Times)
The woodland around Cressbrook Dale is categorised among the most ecologically sensitive areas in the national park. (Photo: Jason Chadwick/Derbyshire Times)

Both those deadlines have now passed so park planning officers will now move to the next step in their enforcement procedures.

A PDNPA spokesperson said: “The national park authority understands that conditions at the site remain largely unchanged from previous officer visits and site assessments.

“We have/will shortly be writing to the landowner with information on how the authority intends to take action in respect of the unauthorised activity and additions to the site, and its reinstatement.”

Far from returning the 70-acre site to its previous state, updates on the landowners’ Love Cressbrook Dale blog describe how they have “made a start on uncovering the foundations” of a building which they intend to restore as an “inter-faith chapel for peace.”

That prospect has further fuelled the dispute between Elnaugh’s Cressbrook Dale Estate Private Members’ Association and neighbouring residents’ Save Cressbrook Dale campaign, a community effort to defend the ancient woodland and its wildlife.

In a statement on behalf of Save Cressbrook Dale last week, a spokesperson said: “Not only is there no sign of any compliance, in fact the owners of the land are digging to expose foundations of a structure that they claim to have identified.

“They also claim to have plans to build an entrance to the land and have blocked a path that has been used by walkers and members of the local community for many generations.”

It will fall to planning officers to determine the nature of built developments on the site, but those considerations are only one form of legal protection which should theoretically safeguard the scientifically important site from insensitive alterations.

The park authority spokesperson said: “We have been made aware by a member of the public of potential vegetation clearance at the site where a former building may have been sited.

“This activity will be assessed in a forthcoming site visit by officers but we do not currently believe this constitutes development that would require planning permission.”

Ms Elnaugh had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.

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