My 'spiteful' council caged me into my home in picturesque village with bizarre fencing… I'm so angry I can't sleep | The Sun
AN ELDERLY retired school teacher has found herself CAGED into her own home by "spiteful" council bosses hell-bent on selling off a car park to developers.
Ever since Helene Ball, 77, moved into her home in the picturesque village of Matlock, Derbyshire, in 1966 she has been able to walk through the gate at the end of her garden.
That all changed last week when Derbyshire County Council sent workmen to concrete in a six-foot high piece of green fencing to sit on the other side of her gate.
Just like that, Helene, a recently widowed mum-of-two, felt her life shrink.
Living at the end of a steep cul-de-sac on the edge of Matlock, the back gate offered her a shortcut to friends who live on the main Cavendish Road.
She said: "I wasn’t in when they did it and they gave me no warning. I was so upset that I could not sleep for three nights. I lost my husband two years ago and this made me feel more alone than ever.
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"I couldn’t even bring myself to open the gate and look at it I felt such rage.
"It is such a spiteful thing to do I can still hardly believe they have done it. I don’t think it can be right when we have had access through that gate for 57 years.
"I am glad my husband is not here to see this. He would have been furious. He’d have torn it out with his bare hands."
The Conservative-led council blocked up the gates on homes backing onto a car park on George Street – which the council wants to sell.
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Last month, workers put concrete boulders across the entrance to the sprawling car park area on Cavendish Road along with notices reading: "Please be aware that this site will be secured on Friday 21 April 2023 to guard against inappropriate use."
Ironically, a sticker next to the notice read: "Derbyshire County Council, Improving life for local people."
Days later the workmen arrived to seal in two houses at the end of George Road – Helene’s and her neighbours.
They are the only homes on George Road with gates offering access to the car park area.
The neighbour’s fence mysteriously "blew down" soon after it was put up but Helene’s is set in concrete.
Oddly the council’s move only prevents cars from entering the site from Cavendish Road.
It is still accessible to dog walkers or anyone else wanting to use it as a cut-through.
Neighbour Markham May, 65, an education consultant, said: "The Council say they want 'vacant possession' but this is absurd when it is not a house but a vast space whose future is still undecided.
"They know full well that nothing is likely to happen for two years and yet they have done this. It is like a show of strength against one elderly lady."
Councillor Sue Burfoot of the opposition Lib Dems said: "The car park is no longer required for council staff so it is surplus to requirements and a decision will be reached on future use.
"But nothing will happen for a long time so why they have blocked off the entire car park and blocked Helene into her back garden I don’t know.
"It just looks vindictive to block her access when anyone else can wander onto the car park. I am determined to change this."
Helene’s son David, 47, believes the council has failed to do a proper risk assessment and is worried about access for emergency services.
"This cul-de-sac gets so tight and clogged up with parked cars at its entrance that sometimes bin lorries can’t get up," he said.
"If there was a fire then the back of my Mum’s house would be the easiest point of access and now that is impossible for no reason at all.
"The same would apply to ambulances. The roads around here are very tight. They have created a real risk for no purpose at all."
Locals are furious at the council for blocking off the entire 100-space car park when existing roads can’t cope with the weight of parked cars.
Mr May added: "Historically the car park has provided a release for the problems we have with parking in this area.
"While it was officially there for the use of council staff, everyone knew it never got full so some residents would park in there overnight and others would use it in the day.
"It took 30 to 35 cars off the road. Now people have nowhere to park. Cars are parked up on the pavement to keep the roads clear for buses and that means people with children in buggies are forced onto the highway.
"The Council’s response is to block off an enormous car park. This isn’t helping local people, it’s hindering."
Locals, including Helene, slammed the council's plan for 30 houses on the site.
Some have formed themselves into the Matlock Community Land Trust and want to buy the land themselves and develop it with eight affordable homes, an allotment, a community orchard and car parking spaces.
Julie Atkin, 65, the group’s acting secretary, said: "The Council have to get the best price for the land but against this they can offset social and other benefits.
"They are our Council and they should listen to local people. Matlock is crying out for allotments as well as affordable housing and our plan would deliver both.
"We have real problems here with the sewage system so we can’t over overdevelop, and 30 homes here is just too many.
"Living in the Derbyshire Dales means extra pressure for towns like Matlock because 58 per cent of the land is in the National Park so it is protected."
And Matlock town centre is set at the foot of a very steep hill where there have been four floods in the past three years.
Helene said the stone wall running along the side of her house twice collapsed with water running down the playing field which the Council’s preferred plan would see turned into housing.
A county council spokesperson said: "There are no legal rights of way registered on the title deed held by the Land Registry across the former car park off Cavendish Road or for access from properties on George Street.
"The land was used for many years as a car park for our employees who worked at Chatsworth Hall but as we no longer have any employees using Chatsworth Hall, we no longer have a need for the car park.
"Our duty to the taxpayers of Derbyshire is to seek best value for any land or buildings we no longer need and so we secured the site while we look for alternative options for the land.
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"We’re aware that a small number of local residents had been using the car park and we wrote to all residents in close proximity to the site to let them know that the site would be secured and to ask them to move their vehicles before this date, which they did."
It comes after a council was slammed for a ridiculous rule at a playpark.
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