‘Leisure land’: Cotswolds meadow locals campaign against sell-off plan | Access to green space

A hilltop meadow of flower-rich limestone grassland within the Cotswolds is underneath menace, in response to residents, after it was divided into four-acre plots for individuals looking for to purchase “leisure land” within the countryside.

The Save Juniper Hill Area marketing campaign desires to record the eight-hectare (20-acre) subject near the poet Laurie Lee’s childhood dwelling as “an asset of community value” to cease it being parcelled up by Woodlands.co.uk, which specialises in shopping for tracts of land and reselling it in comparatively small plots.

Woodlands.co.uk claims it’s democratising entry to the land, and that the plots are purchased by nature lovers and additional protected by covenants that make sure the countryside is used for peaceable enjoyment solely.

However campaigners say dividing Juniper Hill Area into 5 plots places uncommon vegetation and animals in jeopardy and restricts public entry to the positioning, which lies between two nature-rich websites of particular scientific curiosity (SSSIs).

Over the previous 20 years, conservation grazing with a small variety of cattle has restored the grassland on Juniper Hill subject, with wildflowers together with pyramidal and bee orchids and marbled white butterflies flourishing. Individuals have loved casual entry over the hilltop for many years.

Since Woodlands.co.uk purchased the positioning, an entry monitor for automobiles has been constructed and the primary fenced 1.6-hectare (four-acre) plot is being provided on the market for £85,000, limiting the permissive pathways throughout the hilltop.

Pleasure Elworthy, 87, who walks on the sector each day, stated: “When I’m walking there I feel I’m surrounded by my friends – the wildlife and nature. I would like to see it protected by some organisation that will look after it, not only for the flowers and the insects but also for people because this is such a peaceful, beautiful place with lovely views.”

Joy Elworthy (left) with Lindsay Pugh (centre) and Hanny Fox.
Pleasure Elworthy (left) with Lindsay Pugh (centre) and Hanny Fox. {Photograph}: Adrian Sherratt/The Guardian

Hanny Fox, 88, who has walked over the hilltop for 50 years, stated: “There’s an enormous variety of flowers including quite rare orchids. Skylarks nest up there. There are badgers, deer and lizards. It’s a nice open place, and it’s just you and nature and that is very precious. There isn’t a parking place, there isn’t a burger van. These places are rare, they are the lungs of society.”

Madeleine Bunting, an area resident and creator, stated: “It’s Laurie Lee territory, it’s one of the most celebrated landscapes in the country and it’s crawling with designations like AONB and SSSI. We should be saying: the priority is biodiversity now, and not a private glamping site.”

Campaigners concern that dividing the positioning will convey damaging 4×4 visitors by the Frith Wooden SSSI, and that new house owners might not perceive find out how to handle delicate limestone grassland and use the meadow for pony paddocks or tenting, which is permitted for 28 nights a yr.

Steve Ferguson, one other native resident, stated: “The worst-case scenario is that it will end up being five leisure plots where people pursue recreational activities and mow too early [killing the wildflowers] or not mow at all – creating either barren grassland or encroachment of scrub.”

A view of the wildflower meadow Juniper Hill Field near Slad in the Cotswolds
The wildflower meadow Juniper Hill Area is close to the village of Slad within the Cotswolds. {Photograph}: Adrian Sherratt/The Guardian

Pure England, the federal government’s conservation watchdog, has tried to purchase the meadow however its provide was rejected as a result of it was thought of beneath the market charge by Woodlands.co.uk.

Angus Hanton, the founding father of Woodlands.co.uk, stated native fears about harm to the meadow by dividing it up had been unfounded.

“It is probable that biodiversity will be increased,” he stated. “There is a wider issue here with regard to trusting non-professionals to manage the countryside. Our experience suggests that our buyers can be trusted.

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“We have been for many years carefully transferring rural land into the hands of people who put their hearts, their time and their money into managing it – even without grants or subsidies. Whenever we sell land, we add a covenant to protect it, which works in addition to the protection the land has from planning and other legislation. Our buyers do an extraordinarily good job of managing the land and we trust that they will continue to do so. Democratising rural land ownership is at the heart of what we do.”

Hanton stated the corporate had created a brand new permissive path over the sector whereas the earlier proprietor had restricted permissive entry. He stated promoting the entire website to Pure England remained a chance.

The Juniper Hill campaigners are looking for to get it listed as an asset of group worth earlier than it’s bought off in parcels to allow its safety by the group.

Roger Mortlock, the chief government of the Marketing campaign to Defend Rural England, stated it was more and more frightened about resellers dividing land into small plots as a result of it lacked transparency, thwarted makes an attempt to introduce landscape-scale conservation and in some circumstances could possibly be a speculative carve-up for potential housebuilders.

“The vision of democratising access to land in a country where much of our land is owned by a small number of people is very compelling,” he stated. “But there’s no accountability, and there are no enforceable obligations to encourage collective use and no incentives to look after the land in a shared way across the piece.”

Mortlock stated Juniper Hill Area was significantly unsuited to division into plots. “Limestone grassland is our Serengeti. If it ends up being a camping patch of divided land, that has impacts both for biodiversity and the wider landscape.”

Mortlock stated he hoped the land could possibly be purchased and guarded by the area people working in partnership with environmental consultants. “It’s in a very sensitive landscape full of people trying to do amazing things to join up the landscape ecologically and for people,” he stated.

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