Residents’ bid for beloved Bexhill woodland

Christopher Wallace (Chairman - Ellerslie Area Residence Association) and Chris Ashford (Secretary) at the entrance to St Mary's Wood, Bexhill. SUS-160206-100856001

Christopher Wallace (Chairman - Ellerslie Area Residence Association) and Chris Ashford (Secretary) at the entrance to St Mary's Wood, Bexhill. SUS-160206-100856001

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A group of Bexhill residents are trying to raise enough money to buy a piece of woodland from the council to keep it in the community.

The Ellerslie Area Residents Association (EARA) wants to purchase St Mary’s Wood from Rother District Council (RDC).

RDC planned to auction the two-acre woodland on May 9, but withdrew it at the last minute following legal advice.

The woodland has a restrictive covenant on it meaning it must be kept as an ancient woodland but EARA chairman Christopher Wallace is concerned.

“We’re not sure what’s going to happen to it. We thought it’s a lovely piece of woodland that needs cleaning up and we think we can provide this for the local area,” he said.

“It’s stopping someone from getting hold of it, knocking down the trees and building on it.”

EARA started the appeal two weeks ago and it has already reached around £3,000.

When the woodland was up for auction, the guide price was around £5,000 and Mr Wallace is sure the group can raise the sum.

The question is whether or not RDC would accept the offer.

It declined a similar bid from a community group for Camber Fields, in Rye, which ended up being auctioned for more than double the guide price.

“We’re making a viable, working plan proving that we can buy it and maintain it, but RDC would be rather foolish to not accept our offer,” Mr Wallace said.

The covenant on St Mary’s Wood means it cannot be knocked down and developed on.

Cllr Stuart Earl has lived in Bexhill all his life and grew up in nearby Turkey Road, regularly playing in the woodland as a boy.

The independent St Mark’s ward representative donated to the appeal as soon as he found out about it on Facebook.

“If it hadn’t been them [EARA], I probably would have tried to buy it myself,” he said.

“It’s part of the heritage of where I grew up and I genuinely feel that we have got to preserve these green lungs for public use.”

A council spokesman said once the legalities have been clarified, the woodland will be formally advertised as for sale, before cabinet makes the final decision.

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