Future of ‘secret’ Bristol wood in the balance as mystery buyer ‘Mrs A’ outbids community group

The buyer paid more than twice the money raised by the crowdfunder

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The future of a ‘secret’ woodland in Bristol was thrown into further uncertainty when a local group was outbid by a mystery buyer.

The group, led by Protect Earth, Friends of Troopers Hill, and others raised £87,000 plus an estimated £11,000 in gift aid, to buy the woodland but were outbid by ‘Mrs A’ who successfully bid £245,000 for Blackswarth Road Wood, a woodland near St George in east Bristol.

And now Labour MP Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) and Fabian Breckels, Labour Councillor for St George Troopers Hill, have expressed their concern over the purchase.

When it was first revealed that this piece of woodland was set to go to auction, the listing stated the land had ‘scope for development’.

Cllr Breckels wrote to the auctioneers to demand a correction as this site is not listed for development in the Local Plan and has been designated as a Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI), meaning any proposals to cut down trees to enable a development would likely fail – casting doubt over whether there is any ‘scope for development.’

Kerry McCarthy and Cllr Breckels have called on ‘Mrs A’ to come forward and announce their intentions for the site and reiterate there is no reasonable chance of developing this precious woodland.

Speaking about the auction, Kerry McCarthy said: “The amazing support for the crowdfunder showed the strength of local feeling about protecting this precious woodland from development.

“I hope that I can, with Cllr Breckels, meet with this anonymous buyer or her representatives so she can make her intentions known.

“We will make it absolutely clear to her that should she seek to override the planning protections, she will have a fight on her hands.”

Councillor Breckels said: “I’m devastated to learn that our community-led bid to buy the invaluable piece of woodland off Crews Hole Road, known as Blackswarth Road Wood, have been unsuccessful. Despite raising £98,000, we were beaten by ‘Mrs A’, an anonymous bidder who clearly has deeper pockets than us.

“Whilst the auctioneers insisted this woodland has ‘scope for development’, as a local councillor I will use every power at our disposal to stop it going ahead.

“Our Local Plan protects this woodland from development by designating this as a space for nature and a Site of Nature Conversation Interest – meaning planning officers would look on any application very dimly. Moreover, the steepness of the site means it is entirely unsuitable for development in the first place.

“‘Mrs A’ should come forward and announce her plans for the site. As soon as she does, I will open a dialogue to ensure they are well aware of the city’s ardent opposition to any form of development in place of this woodland.

“My thanks go to everyone who was involved with the community-led campaign to buy the land with the purpose of protecting it for nature. Our bid was unsuccessful but we will not give up the fight.”