Fears for ancient Stevenage woodland as plots go up for auction

PUBLISHED: 08:55 02 July 2020

60 acres of Box Wood have been sold by private treaty - and are now being auctioned off in parcels. Picture: Supplied

60 acres of Box Wood have been sold by private treaty - and are now being auctioned off in parcels. Picture: Supplied


Residents have expressed mounting concerns over the future of a Stevenage woodland which has been put up for auction.

The privately owned 60-acre Box Wood forest, on the eastern edge of Stevenage, is being parcelled off into eight 1.5 acre plots – each worth £25,000 – and will go to auction on July 14.

Plots appeared on property websites Rightmove and Zoopla last week, and have been advertised by Exclusive Property Sales as “an attractive parcel of mixed woodland located in the desirable location of Boxwood.”

The advert also states: “Whilst currently presented as woodland, the parcels offer an excellent opportunity for a number of other potential users” – leading many residents to believe some of the land is being groomed for development.

The woodland is subject to a 30 per cent clawback on all future non-woodland development, which means the buyer would have to pay back 30 per cent on any future rises in value.

However, the southern section of the site is designated as an ‘Ancient Monument’ by English Heritage due to the presence of earthworks thought to be the remains of a settlement dating back to the medieval period.

There is no mention of Box Wood’s special status on the advertisement, and when questioned, Exclusive Property Sales declined to comment.

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One resident, Katy Alexander, has reported the sale to the Woodland Trust, a charity which has saved over 1,000 ancient woods from development since its founding.

Katy has also written to Martins Wood Primary School to ask if they can help “safeguard the future environment” by supporting a community project.

Gillian Gaunt, from Walkern, said she was “absolutely disgusted” after hearing about the sale of the land, and fears that new owners are being encouraged to “ruin the wood.”

She said: “This wood has the medieval village of Box outlined just below the surface. People who live on the edge of the wood say they cannot even dig their gardens near the perimeter because of a preservation order.”

Exclusive Property Sales have said they are acting on behalf of a third-party owner, and are not responsible for the purchasing or selling of the land.

In a similar sale in Welwyn Garden City last month, land by Digswell Viaduct went up for auction after an alleged company called Country Land Conservation bought the land from a private owner.

It is understood that CLC were original buyers of 60 acres of Box Wood, and are responsible for auctioning off the southern section, via agents Exclusive Property Sales.

Numerous attempts have been made to contact the organisation, which is registered in Ireland – though none have been successful.

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