Exclusive: Town launches fundraiser against housing fears
By Simon Hacker | 9th May 2023
The sale of two adjoining farms bordering Wotton-under-Edge has triggered a community bid to buy parts of the land amid fears that key areas are vulnerable to development.
Fearing that developers will bank the land, local campaigners have clubbed together under the banner of Wotton Community Land Trust to try and raise £175,000 to buy key parcels of three current land sales and preserve the areas for community recreation.
As present, the area, including Brown's piece, is mostly on inclined terrain and is a mix of overgrown scrub and grazing pasture crossed by a network of footpaths, making it a popular dog walking and picnicking area for the town. A field in the sale that overlooks the neighbouring village of Kingswood is also a major gathering point for winter sledging – activities residents say they fear losing if the land is earmarked for development.
So far, £34,000 has been gathered for the campaign.
Said organiser Tom Nall: "We have the prospect of losing swathes of green space as Leys and Haw Park Farms have both come onto the market."
Once secured, he said, the campaign would be able to access grants and funds for specific projects for the land, adding: "so far, it looks like we'll need to find the majority of funds together as a community".
Residents fear the land is vulnerable after Stroud District Council planners set a precedent by giving the go-ahead, with the backing of Cotswold MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, for development of an adjoining field, off Symn Lane, in June 2020.
The Symn Lane field was also outside the town's development boundary and within the same Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that covers the new sale.
But after a long and heated dispute, it was successfully sold off for redevelopment by Cirencester-based Colburn Homes, along with an undertaking to construct additional car and coach parking for the town.
Residents have added their voice to the new online campaign.
Jean Harcourt said: "How sad, my Jack Russell loved that area and how sad for everyone living there... we will all be surrounded by concrete."
The £175,000 funding target would aim to buy strategic parts of the sale, while raising money to acquire an adjoining section of 11.02 acres (4.46 ha) of land at Brown's Piece, which is also for sale at an undisclosed price through agents Bruton Knowles.
Rural agents David James lists Haw Park Farm as a five-bedroom period farmhouse with traditional buildings and 122 acres at £2.525,000, while Leys Farm is a six-bedroom period property with "modern and traditional buildings" with lot options for a total of 184 acres. It is offered for a total of £3.2m.
Agent Matthew Blaken said: "The farms come to the market for the first time in nearly 100 years having been owned by the King family, originally Dan King and then passing to his son Sidney and daughter Margaret and more to Sidney's family.
"There are two large traditional farmhouses and farmyards within mainly grassland and totalling over 300 acres provides an attractive opportunity for farmers and other landowners, with opportunity for renovation of the traditional farmbuildings.
"We have seen some good local and regional interest and is a rare offering given the location and land holding."
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