Ancient woodland destruction site sold

Levelling the ground at Pondtail Wood after the felling of trees SUS-160206-162015001
Levelling the ground at Pondtail Wood after the felling of trees SUS-160206-162015001

A site where ancient woodland was felled without permission near Albourne has been sold to a new owner.

The former owner of the Pondtail Wood off Muddleswood Road provoked outrage last year by cutting down the trees even after a stop notice from the Forestry Commission.

An enforcement notice was then issued by the South Downs National Park Authority to the now former owners, who then appealed against the enforcement action.

However this appeal has now been dropped and the national park has confirmed hat a new owner has taken control of the private land, and a timescale to remove waste from the site has been agreed.

A spokesman for the SDNPA said: “We believe this is a positive outcome for the national park, providing certainty for the future management of the planning breach – not only has the appeal been withdrawn but the new owner, along with the former owner of the site, have signed an agreement with the SDNPA that they will not lodge any challenges to the amended Enforcement Notice.

“We look forward to working with the new site owner to restore the site in accordance with the requirements of the amended Enforcement Notice.”

The new owner is required to ‘grade and level the surface in keeping with the soil type to allow regeneration of replanted trees’.

Restocking of the trees will be pursued by the Forestry Commission, with the new planting season starting in the autumn.

Phil Belden, conservation advisor to the Sussex Wildlife Trust, explained the sale ‘neatly avoids the imminent public inquiry into enforcement’ after the damage done to the site.

In a statement on the trust’s website, he said: “The inquiry may have provided the opportunity, not only to save the remnant Pondtail Wood, where much of its heart has been illegally ripped out and then dumped on, but to fully restore it, to re-create our distinctive ancient woodland, of which some 50 per cent of all woodlands across the South Downs National Park can be traced back more than 400 years.

“We need to await further news from the National Park as to what happens next with the new owner.

“Much will depend on their attitude, but s/he will have some work to do to restore this wood as both National Park Authority and Forestry Commission are insisting on this being done, regardless of who owns the site.”

Andrew MacNaughton (Con, Ardingly and Balcombe), Mid Sussex District Council’s cabinet member for housing and planning, gave councillors an update at a meeting last night (Wednesday March 29).

John Wilkinson (Con, Hurstpierpoint and Downs) explained how the four parishes in the South Downs National Park ‘will be absolutely delighted as will all concerned’.

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