Tue, 22 Sept 2020
A petition has been launched calling for greater powers to protect “precious” woodland in Thatcham from being lost.
As reported in last week’s Newbury Weekly News, The Plantation – bordering Floral Way, Blackthorn Drive, Violet Grove and Withybed Way on the Dunston Park estate – has been put up for sale for £250,000.
The property description says that the land “could hold development opportunities subject to the relevant planning consents” as it is not designated as greenbelt.
Residents from across the town have rallied to protect the 6.4 acres of ancient woodland, known as Piggy Woods.
They are calling on West Berkshire Council to put measures in place to prevent the cherished space from being lost.
A petition set up on Tuesday says: “Thatcham’s ancient woodland and wildlife site is under threat of possible development and denied public access.
“West Berkshire District Council could protect it with ‘Local Green Space’ status and use Article 4 Directions to withdraw any Permitted Development Rights immediately.
“These much-loved woods must stay open for everyone in the Thatcham community to enjoy.
“They really are a valued community asset.
“The woods are home to loads of species of birds and other wildlife, children play there, families walk there, dogs (and cats) go walkies there, hedgehogs thrive there and everyone benefits from having trees in their life.
“We can’t stand by and let greedy developers steal a precious piece of our community’s character from right under our noses.”
The woodland formed part of Dunston House and is designated as ancient woodland.
Founding member of the Save Our Woodland The Plantation Sue Lister said she was walking through the woods recently and met a man who had grown up on the estate but moved away.
He said he had heard that the land was up for sale and bought his family to see the place he played in as a child.
“It’s where memories are made for children and people who are older have got memories of it,” she said. “This guy was a case in point.
“It’s precious to people. We need that woodland.
“You have that feeling of wellbeing. We just need to keep the access to it.
“We need the council to give it the protection it needs so whoever buys it can’t wreak destruction.
“We want to get this Article 4 designation, we know other council’s have turned this around quite quickly.”
Town and district councillor Lee Dillon (Lib Dem, Thatcham North East) has been working to save the woodland.
He said: “It’s been great to work with so many residents to get together the evidence that shows why the woods are so important to the community.
“I have been busy working with officers at West Berkshire Council on a number of options to safeguard the land, and will share any update on Save our Woodland ‘The Plantation’ Facebook group.
“The groundswell of support and the rapid increase of numbers on Facebook shows the community really do care about their assets when they come under threat and are willing to work together to stop this loss.”
“Ideally I would love to get onboard with an organisation like BBOWT and build an outdoor classroom there and have the school there for a morning and to get to grips with nature and exploring as kids.
“That’s what woodland is for.”
Mr Dillon said he would ask Thatcham town councillors to support a range of measures to protect the land, including designating the land as green space, at a meeting on September 28.
The petition can be signed at https://www.change.org/p/west-berkshire-district-council-protect-thatcham-s-woodland-from-development/c