Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Freeman's Wood: the fight continues

Campaigners seeking to stop Freeman's Wood from being bulldozed are stepping up their campaign.

There was outrage earlier in the year when developers fenced off previously public accessible land near the Marsh (see news story) and began to destroy trees and and other fauna, breaking Council Tree Preservation Orders and potentially exposing buried asbestos on the site.

Since then, two plans by separate developers for extensive development for the area, one for Freeman's Wood and environs, the other affecting Coronation Field by the Satnam Group, have been revealed.

Lancastrians  reacted angrily to the news that the Wood near the Lune Industrial Estate - long open to the public and popular with walkers, bikers and bird watchers - had been fenced off by  landowners The Property Trust, a Bermuda-based company headed by a Hong Kong businessman, who have lodged an objection against the TPO.

Lancaster City Council's Cabinet recently discussed the proposals and their impact on the Council's own Local Plan. Previously, planners were intending to lump Freeman's Wood and Coronation Field together in a way that would allow potential developers SATNAM to propose a project that would potentially mean that they could build houses on Coronation Field and then create a new playing field on the Freeman's Wood land.

Since that meeting it seems that things have changed and the good news appears to be that  Coronation Field and adjoining Council woodland has been taken out of the potential development area. However, campaigners warn that the decision is still not totally crystal clear but they will have time to be completely sure about it before the next Full Council meeting on 18th July.

"We need to read the document very thoroughly and maybe add a sentence to finally seal the situation up," local councillor Jon Barry told virtual-lancaster. "The good news is that we seem to have political agreement from Labour cabinet members (and, we suspect, from other political parties) on the need to protect Coronation Field so, as it stands, there doesn't seem to be a need for any lobbying at the moment."

Councillor Barry tells us Satnam will be 'consulting' over their proposals in the autumn.

Once the planning situation has been dealt with, then the Friends of Freeman's Wood and Coronation Field group will need to consider what it wants to do next.

"Our intention is that the group will now be working to bring Freeman's Wood into public or community ownership," Jon tells us. "A big ask - but we're going to give it a go."

Over 40 Town Green forms have now been collected and 60 footpath forms (the campaigners are claiming three footpaths across the Freeman's Wood site). These applications should be formally submitted to the County Council by the end of the summer.

• The Friends of Freeman's Wood and Coronation Field will be meeting at the Marsh Community Centre Sunday 15th July at 6.00pm

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