Appeal to sign petition over future of ancient woodland in Stevenage
- Credit: Steve Brown
A petition to protect the future of an ancient woodland currently up for sale, and to retain public access to the site, has so far amassed more than 650 signatures.
Hertfordshire County Council wants to sell 54.72 acres of Astonbury Wood, which lies east of Stevenage off the A602 near Bragbury End, as well as the Field Study Centre there.
A designated Local Wildlife Site, the woodland has existed since the 1600s and contains archaeological features, including several pits, as well as providing a rich wildlife habitat.
Aston Parish Council is concerned the sale of the land could lead to inappropriate development and loss of public access, and has started a petition in a bid to ensure it is only sold to a buyer who can demonstrate that their ownership will maximise the social and environmental benefit to the community - encouraging greater recreational involvement and continued public use of the woodland.
The online petition also stresses that the buyer must have the capability and resources to maintain and operate the wood on a sustainable basis, and must focus on increasing the extent and quality of all the habitats and biodiversity in the woodland.
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Parish council chairman Steve Brown said: "The county council is trying to get rid of a liability and, if we can get the wood into the right ownership, we would support the sale completely. Our concern is it won’t be kept as public access. We are making as much noise as possible so the sale doesn’t go under the radar.
"We need 1,000 signatures to be able to raise our concerns at a county council meeting, so please sign the petition."
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HCC says the site is being marketed locally, "to give all interested parties an opportunity to express their proposals to ensure a fair process" and that "consideration will be given to the future use of the woodland and whether this will be opened to the wider community". The county council says selling the land on a long leasehold basis "looks to restrict use of the site".
To sign the e-petition, which runs until January 29, click here.
To join the action group set up to help protect the wood, email firstname.lastname@example.org