UK: Move to privatize woodland makes many march to keep it free

More than 100 people took part in a march through Stapleton as fears
grow about plans to privatise woodland next to the River Frome.
Walkers who use the woods next to Snuff Mills Park are worried that
the new landowner wants to fence off part of it for private use.
Temporary fences have been set up around the same part of the woodland
bought in November 2007 by Sneyd Park resident Lord Houshang Jafari.
Fears were raised last year that Mr Jafari wanted to build on the land
when he applied to fell a row of trees by the road. The application
failed in October when the city council placed a blanket tree
preservation order on the woods.

Residents thought they had won the
fight to preserve the land but the new fences have prompted fears that
Mr Jafari will try to privatise it. Documents sent to the council by
Mr Jafari’s agent say the public right of way on the woodland is
letting people commit criminal damage to his land. He has always
denied wanting to develop the land and was unavailable for comment
last night. Bristol MPs Roger Berry and Kerry McCarthy joined the
throng yesterday afternoon to lend their support to the campaign to
save the woods. The residents are planning legal action to win the
land “town green” status, which would protect it for future public
use. Campaign leader Steve Micklewright said: “Lord Jafari has always
said to us that he wanted to turn Grove Wood into an iconic park for
the people of Bristol. “But we have seen documents written by his
agent that clearly state that he wishes to turn the land in to private
gardens and woodland. The report even argues for the closure of the
existing public right of way. “If Grove Wood becomes a town green his
plans will once again be thwarted.

“We have been suspicious from the
start and the documents I have seen show that we are right to be. “We
are launching a town green campaign and are trying to get evidence
together to stop this community wood from becoming private land. “More
than 100 people have turned out to the march, which shows that there
is a lot of support for this idea.” Roger Berry, MP for Kingswood,
said: “I have been aware of this row for a long time and now it seems
we should look for this land to be taken back into public ownership by
the city council. “This is a woodland area which has been used by
local people for a long time and we want it to stay that way. “Along
with my fellow MPs and local councillors here we will continue to give
these people all the support we can.”

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