(Updated 15th March) As outrage grows over the actions the Property Trust and its destruction of trees in Freeman's Wood on Lancaster's Marsh, despite legally-binding Tree Preservation Orders (see news story), it seems law-breaking is just a sideline when it comes to the company's full plan for massive development of the area, including Coronation Field - plans local councillors say they have not been made aware of.
As we reported this weekend, contractors for the Trust, who own Freeman's Wood, have caused widespread and illegal destruction to trees and land - but the removal of the Wood entirely (or, at least, its name) is not one of their aims.
It has since emerged that this is the work of staff for White Lund firm VMC Developments, who Friends of Freeman's Wood campaigners believe are digging the up the land in a search for valuable stone from the site.
Campaigners protesting at the actions, who want to protect Freeman's Wood by making it a city green, have also discovered that planning consultants the Satnam Group, acting for the Property Trust, the owners of the Freeman’s Wood site, are proposing to build houses on some of the land near Freeman's Wood (PDF link) - and re-develop Coronation Field.
"The site, which currently provides no value to the local community, can unlock the potential to enhance and relocate the existing recreational facilities for the area," say Satnam, who have submitted two different plans for consideration, arguing their proposals "would incorporate the future aspiration of the local football team.
"Put in simple terms this would be new fully drained pitches, a new club house and parking. Main vehiclar access would be via New Quay Road which would remove the majority ofthe traffic from Willow Road and the surrounding area.
"Option 2 would also provide increase leisure facilities with another playing field for rugby and an indoors sports facility with a separate carpark accessed from Willow Lane.
"The new Business units will be designed specifically for new businesses, adaptable and flexible, these will be able to grow and change with the business requirements as it expands or changes to suit the market. Again accessed from New Quay Road this will have no impact on the local community.
"The new playground on the Coronation Fields site will be design with modern equipment and facilities for all ages including a carpark for people visiting. The affordable housing will be used to help residents in the area. Situated on the bus route to the City Centre, this would also make an ideal location for key worker accommodation.
"The new market housing will be designed to take advantage of the surroundings, overlooking the new playing fields and adjacent Freeman's Wood. The overall development will improve the current social provision in the area, provide new affordable housing, new market housing and business units to encourage new jobs in the area."
Drawn up in 2010, the proposal was submitted to the City Council last September but it appears councillors were not made aware of the plans by the Council's own planning staff - much to their annoyance.
"This has been sitting in an obscure corner of the City Council’s website," says Jon Barry. "As a ward councillor, I am none too pleased with not having this pointed out to me until I specifically asked if such a document existed."
|One proposed design for a new club house for|
the Marsh Football Club
"The club-house for Marsh United would be completely open to vandalism," he says.
"As you can guess, this proposal is completely unacceptable to me and, I’m sure, most local people.
"Apart from anything else, Coronation Field is an incredibly important space for people on the Marsh.
"The area was given to the people of the Marsh by Lord Ashton (Williamson) and was formerly used as a tip for the lino factory," John reveals. "A huge project took place in the early 1950s where the site was levelled by volunteer labour (and if you know the size of the field, that is an awful lot of wheelbarrows!). The field was named after the 1953 coronation of the present queen."
This development dovetails with a separate Barratt/Redrow homes application for Luneside West for the old factory. Perhaps the 'replacement' new pay-to-play facilities in the Satnam scheme are being aimed at owners of these proposed dwellings, not existing residents.
Submitted in 2010 and now awaiting a planning decision, the Barratt proposal on Luneside West is for residential development comprising 403 units, associated highways works, open space and landscaping. Go to http://planapps.lancaster.gov.uk and search for application 10/00660/FUL.
• View the Satnam proposal - September 2011
• Friends of Freeman's Wood Blog