Peak District authority gives Foolow residents six months to find £300,000 for community woodland project
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It is the latest development in a long-running debate between villagers and the Peak District National Park Authority, which will put the land at Brosterfield Farm on the open market if the money cannot be raised.
For now, a business plan put together by residents for the purchase and ongoing maintenance has won them approved bidder status – meaning they have an exclusive first option to buy the land.
John Fallows, chairman of the Foolow Wildwood project committee, said: “We’re delighted that the Peak District National Park has approved our business plan and we feel confident that we can raise the necessary money.
“This is already being done through contributions from local residents and businesses, and if needed we’ll ask for crowd funding through our website.”
The committee envisions planting several thousand trees, wildflowers and a hay meadow which could be open to the community, including schools and researchers from the region’s universities.
It has already won support from Derbyshire Dales MP Sarah Dines who said: “I am very pleased that the village has now been given time to raise the required funds, and I wish them luck.”
The park authority paid £650,000 for the land in 2012 in order to prevent its previous owner from developing a static caravan site, which was believed to pose significant risk to the character of the landscape.
In order to recover that money, officers put together a proposal for a touring caravan site with amenity block, wardens accommodation and a new access road.
After a determined campaign by residents, that idea was initially rejected by the park’s planning committee, but an amended plan was passed in early 2020 with the aim of selling it to prospective developers.
A spokesman for the authority said: “While the sale would represent a loss against the original purchase price, this was considered the most appropriate action at the time of original purchase.
“We recognise the community’s desire to see the land used for activities that would be in line with national park purposes for conservation and enjoyment of the landscape.”
To find out more about the project and how to donate, go to foolowwildwoodproject.org.