LETTER: Don’t sell family silver to plug funding gap

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High Peak Borough councillors are considering applying for planning permission for houses in Serptentine Walks with a view to selling the land to shore up council funds.

Local councils are expected to meet expensive statutory obligations and targets imposed by successive governments which do not have the guts to increase taxes or allow local councils to increase council tax enough to fund their obligations.

However before High Peak Borough Council (HPBC) sells the family silver to help plug funding gaps, councillors should consider carefully not only whether it is appropriate to do so, but in the case of the above land, whether a sale of the land for developers is actually lawful. I have read the conveyance dated March 1 1890 whereby the seventh Duke of Devonshire conveyed/gifted the land.

The terms of the gift by the 1890 conveyance are clear. The intention behind the gift was that the land should ‘for ever hereafter’ be used and maintained ‘as and for an ornamental garden and nursery grounds.’ The 1890 conveyance constituted Buxton Gardens Company Ltd as its successors as trustee(s) of the land upon trust for the use and enjoyment of the inhabitants of Buxton and the wider community as an ornamental garden and nursery grounds. Sale of the land for housing would breach the trusts on which the council holds the land.

What better way of honouring the terms of the gift than HPBC, pursuant to its statutory well-being powers under the Local Government Act 2000, granting Serpentine Community Farm a long lease of the nursery land at a peppercorn rent? This community interest company is doing a fabulous job looking after the land for the purposes for which it was given for the benefit of the community.

David Bourne

Lismore Road, Buxton

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