Box Wood: 42 acres of ancient woodland sold at auction

Bluebells at Box Wood in Stevenage

What does the future hold for Box Wood in Stevenage? - Credit: Archant

A 42-acre chunk of ancient woodland has been sold at auction, prompting questions from campaigners fighting to protect the site from development.

Stevenage's Box Wood lies within Green Belt off Stevenage Road, partly within a site of Archaeological Significance and an Ancient Monument.

Concerns over the future of the privately-owned wood were first raised when the 60-acre site was parcelled up into plots of land and put up for auction in July last year.

The plots remained unsold and several failed attempts to sell the land subsequently followed.

However, a 42-acre plot of Box Wood sold for £139,000 at a London auction yesterday, according to estate agent Barnard Marcus.

The buyer and their plans for the land are not yet publicly known.

For those campaigning to protect the land from development, the sale has prompted unease and a lot of questions.

Stephen Sypula, a member of the Friends of Box Wood group, said: "Who bought it? What are their intentions? Who owns the remaining 18 acres? Will East Hertfordshire Council trigger the Asset of Community Value process to hold the sale to allow a community bid? Will access be challenged in the meantime? Lots of questions and no answers, as yet."

The land was registered as an Asset of Community Value with East Hertfordshire Council late last year, after community interest group Friends of Fairlands Farm successfully argued that the wood furthers the social wellbeing and interests of the community.

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The Asset of Community Value status means if the owner wants to sell, Friends of Fairlands Farm must first have the chance to register an interest as a bidder, triggering a six-month period during which time the owner can only sell to a community interest group.

David Martin, who is behind Friends of Fairlands Farm, says he is "unsure of the current situation", now some of the land has been sold without his knowledge.

The Comet has contacted East Hertfordshire Council for clarification.

As well as registering the land as an Asset of Community Value, last year East Hertfordshire Council also protected the land with a tree preservation order and Article 4 direction, which withdrew permitted development rights.

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