Court date set in battle over land beside Sheffield Ski Village
A legal battle over land beside Sheffield's old Ski Village, which could play a role in the site's long-awaited redevelopment, will go before the courts this autumn.
New age travellers are living on Parkwood Springs, beside the fire-ravaged ski slopes where many of Britain's Winter Olympians vying for glory in Pyeongchang once honed their skills.
Sheffield Council has claimed that plot is key to the planned regeneration of the site as a £22.5 million extreme sports destination, including hotel-style accommodation and housing on surrounding land, and is taking legal action to remove the travellers.
But they are refusing to leave, and nearly 2,300 people have now signed a petition backing their right to stay.
The case went before Sheffield County Court last Thursday, where the council said a date had been set for a trial this September.
A council spokeswoman said: "We are pleased that the judge has recognised the importance of this decision for the people of Sheffield and that we will have the opportunity to present our evidence fully. In the meantime, we will continue to do all we can to work with the group in the months ahead.
"It is regrettable that we’re having to take court action. But we cannot just give away council-owned land because people move onto it illegally and want to keep it.
"We have been talking to representatives from the group for some time about helping them with moving on. We've offered support with housing and will meet any homelessness duties owed.
"While the legal process continues we remain committed to supporting people as much as possible to help them make alternative arrangements."
The petition, started by Diane Barrett, states that travellers have occupied the site for around 13 years and have looked after the area during that time, keeping crime down and growing their own fruit and vegetables.
The travellers say they support the re-opening of the Ski Village site, which has sat derelict since a blaze swept through in 2012, but insist there is no need for them to move.
EXTREME Destinations heads up a consortium which was last autumn announced as the council's preferred developer of the Ski Village site.
It is drawing up detailed proposals for the land, where it is hoped the ski slopes could reopen as early as next year and other attractions may include climbing and e-gaming, but no plans have yet been submitted for approval.
The council has said previously that the land occupied by travellers was needed to make any development viable.
But EXTREME's chief executive Alistair Gosling was recently quoted as saying its plans were 'not reliant' on that piece of land, and 'the issue is one for the council'.
It is understood the consortium hopes to be on site by September, and it is not believed the legal wrangle would prevent that happening whatever the eventual outcome.