Residents take control of Bexhill woods

Members of St Mary's Wood (EARA) Ltd celebrating at St Mary's Wood, Bexhill. SUS-160609-164344001
Members of St Mary's Wood (EARA) Ltd celebrating at St Mary's Wood, Bexhill. SUS-160609-164344001

A group of residents has officially taken ownership of an area of ancient woodland which was to be auctioned off by the council.

The 2.01 acre St Mary’s Wood was to go under the hammer in May last year with a guide price of £195,000.

The wood was a number of pieces of land owned by Rother District Council set to be sold off to boost the local authority’s coffers.

The Ellerslie Area Residents Association set up St Mary’s Wood (EARA) Ltd and following negotiations with the council, has now officially bought the woodland for just £1.

In a letter to the group’s supporters, CEO Christopher Wallace said: “I am sure you will agree that our company has created a natural asset for all to enjoy. All this was made possible by your very positive and generous financial contributions.

“This was a wonderful display of our community working together for the benefit of future generations of both residents and visitors.

“Over the coming months we plan to invest money, time and effort into our wood.

“Our aim is to greatly improve the appearance of this wonderful ancient wood, which unfortunately over a long period of time has fallen into a sad state.

“Our aim is to provide a green and peaceful area for the general public to enjoy at their leisure.”

A Rother District Council spokesman said: “Cabinet agreed in 2015 to dispose of some of the sites the council owns but no longer needs.

“Transferring ownership of sites such as St Mary’s Wood will allow us to reduce management costs and invest in assets which bring in long-term revenue for the council at a time when we’re facing considerable funding pressures.

“The decision to sell St Mary’s Wood to the company set up by the Ellerslie Area Residents’ Association for £1 was approved by cabinet in September last year and the transfer of the land was completed on April 7.

“Members were impressed to see residents taking direct responsibility for the ownership and management of this much-loved area of local woodland and we wish them well in managing the site in the future.

“The wood is subject to a protective covenant meaning it will always remain open to the public, while in the event of a future transfer of the land or winding up of the company the council will have the option of regaining ownership of the site.

“This arrangement will ensure that people in Bexhill can continue to enjoy the wood for generations to come.”

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