Mystery surrounds the sale of Rede Wood, a Suffolk nature reserve, to a private buyer. The Friends of Rede Wood say it is only the second local Local Nature Reserve in the country to be passed into private hands. The council says the name of the buyer is “confidential”.
As the council says the 7.6 hectare woodland is the home of orchids, nightingales and deer; a place which is an important historical feature of the landscape.
Rede Wood was not a part of a consultation on the future of country parks and recreation sites which the council has been conducting before deciding on its plans to divest itself of such places at a meeting later this month.
The Nature reserve, in the Gipping valley between Claydon and Henley, is, instead, being sold as part of the policy of selling its farms, other than those with development potential.
They apparently asked £75,000 for the woodland.
John Field, the Lib Dem councillor for Gipping Valley, says in his blog:
The latest word from the County shows that they have taken no notice of local wishes. Not surprising but disappointing. We might hope that the “Big Society” would lead to early notice, discussions and time for communities to get organised and raise funds. No chance!
This is what he has been told:
I write to confirm that Suffolk County Council have accepted an offer from a private individual for Rede Wood and solicitors have been instructed to proceed with the sale. The new purchaser has committed to the County Council’s requirements for public and educational access in Rede Wood. Rede Wood will be open for public pedestrian access at all times throughout the year except for health and safety reasons or maintenance.
The new owner will be required under the contract for sale to enter into a management agreement with Suffolk County Council. The management agreement will be drafted by the County Council’s Senior Ecologist Sue Hooton and will include a requirement for coppicing and management to benefit biodiversity. The management agreement is required to comply with the Local Nature Reserve (LNR) status and will run in perpetuity and apply to all successors in title. The LNR status is a statutory designation under the Access to the Countryside and National Parks Act 1949 and can only be removed by the County Council in consultation with Natural England and not by a private individual.
I am unable to release the details of the new purchaser or sale price until the sale completes as this is confidential information.
Oddly, English Nature, says in its description (link giving error notice at time of writing) of Rede Wood: “It is a County Wildlife Site, but has not been afforded statutory protection.”
According to the Friends (Facebook page), Mid Suffolk Distict Council was prepared to become the new owners, but no time has been allowed for for either consultation or the development of a local bid.There is talk of seeking judicial review.
I would like to have been able to give the council’s case for selling, but searches for the Suffolk CC website produced no evidence of any public report or decision in its committee papers archive or elsewhere. A Google site search, sometimes more effective, produced nothing either. I would be pleased to give the council’s case if they get in touch.
* For those not familiar with Suffolk the Gipping is one of those rivers that changes its name. At Ipswich it becomes the Orwell, from which Eric Blair took his pen name before writing of totalitarianism, in 1984 and Animal Farm.