Campaigners fighting to save Buxton’s Serpentine Community Farm have been dealt a huge blow after being told they must leave the site by the end of the month.
High Peak Borough Council revealed last year it was looking to reclaim the site for redevelopment, and on Monday July 2 the gardeners received notice of the council’s intention to terminate its licence for use and development of the Serpentine on July 31.
Madeline Hall, one of the farm’s directors, said: “This is a truly dreadful situation and the news is shocking. We had expected the council to confirm arrangements for some other use of the site before evicting us.”
The Serpentine Community Farm is a community growing space run by volunteers on the council’s former plant nursery at Serpentine Walks.
Site owners High Peak Council has said previously it was facing ‘significant financial challenges’ and was looking at the possible sale of some assets.
Campaigners say a covenant from the Duke of Devonshire from 1890 states that the Serpentine land must be used ‘for ever hereafter as an ornamental garden and nursery grounds only’, and that without permission from the Duke or his heirs, no buildings ‘other than greenhouses or other buildings to be used for horticultural purposes’ could be built on the site.
Madeline said: “We know they can’t build houses on the land but the council is investing a lot of taxpayers’ money in seeking planning permission in order to make a profit and destroy a well-loved community facility.”
Volunteers have spent years cultivating the site, and Madeline said: “It feels like vandalism to undo all our hard work. We would hate to clear the site only for the council to not do anything with it and it fall once again into disrepair.
“However, this is not the end for us and we plan to rise like a phoenix and reform, and if the Serpentine comes up for sale we will bid to buy it.”
Councillor Tony Ashton, Leader of High Peak Borough Council, said: “The council has taken the difficult decision to sell the nursery site – it has significant potential value and the money is needed to underpin other priorities including works to the Opera House, renovating the Octagon, Glossop Town Hall and the Crescent. It falls to us to address these issues.
“We notified the farm of our intentions a year ago and have offered them a number of alternative locations which they rejected.
“Work has commenced to prepare plans for the development of the site. We are aware of the covenant. The plans will take account of any relevant issues relating to the land title.”