Land issue delays plan for creating ‘town park’

Roger Shelley next to the footbridge he wants reopening in Belper
Roger Shelley next to the footbridge he wants reopening in Belper

THE opening up of a long-closed footbridge and a piece of land to walkers in Belper is no nearer reaching a conclusion.

Roger Shelley and his colleagues at Belper Civic Forum want to see the small piece of land turned into a ‘town park’ and a footbridge over the River Derwent at the Meadows Edge site opened up to the public.

He said: “The fantastic opportunity for people to be able to walk a shorter route from the Chevin into town is surely a public benefit.”

The footbridge and land is currently owned by supermarket Tesco, which wants to build a store on the nearby Meadows Edge site. It has agreed to transfer ownership to Amber Valley Borough Council, which in turn would transfer it to Belper Town Council.

But the two councils have said the move will not happen in the ‘imminent future’.

Mr Shelley said: “Last September, Amber Valley Borough Council agreed to transfer ownership of the land at the west end of Belper Town football pitch to the football club.

“This would enable the club to move towards the river if they were approached by a developer seeking, for example, to put a feeder road through from the Triangle to a development on the Meadows Edge site.

“It appears that Tesco’s land agents were simultaneously prepared to offer the transfer of ownership of the long-closed footbridge across the Derwent, and rights over footpaths across the Meadows, to the borough council, which also agreed it would then transfer these gains to the town council.

“Belper Civic Forum’s consultation with the public showed widespread support for careful development of a ‘town park’ by the river.”

But Town Mayor Cllr John Nelson said: “The Civic Forum keep making noises but they haven’t got the full facts. The whole issue is waiting for Tesco.

“There has been no land transferred to the town council whatsoever. About ten years ago, Belper Town Council tried to buy the Meadows. But the 30-acre site was being quoted as £60,000, or £2,000 an acre. Then someone else said, ‘we want £6,000 per acre’.

“Belper Town Council would like the land for Belper. We see a nice riverside area for the town.”

On the bridge, he added: “It would cost a fortune to keep that bridge in good repair. Who would pay for that?

“Yes, we would like the footbridge to be open. But it is at what cost?

“We do not think we can ask the ratepayers of Belper to pay for it.”

Borough council chief executive Peter Carney, said: “We’re still awaiting a formal response from the land agents about our terms for the transfer of the land to Belper Town Football Club and our acquisition of the footbridge over the River Derwent, and the connected footpaths and land on the Belper Meadows.

“It’s important to note that we have insisted that this transaction must not be dependant on the grant of permission for any potential planning application by any developers on land at the Meadows.”

Council leader Stuart Bradford has said: “The transaction shall not be conditional on any planning application.”

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