Lancaster residents up in arms over housing plans for Freeman’s Wood

Freeman's Wood at the end of St George's Quay.
Freeman's Wood at the end of St George's Quay.

Residents living close to a woodland site in Lancaster have criticised plans for a scheme which would see up to 250 new homes on the land.

Proposals for the project for the western edge of the city – on an area known as Freeman’s Wood – were unveiled at a public consultation event this week.

Freeman's Wood consultation plans.

Freeman's Wood consultation plans.

Outline plans for the site, off New Quay Road, include up to 250 homes. The site would be the last to be brought forward for development in this part of the city, and developers Satnam Investment Ltd say it will help to protect other green belt areas of land around Lancaster.

Satnam say their vision includes open market, retirement and affordable housing, as well as self-build plots, along with areas of public open space and footpath routes.

Satnam erected a metal fence around the wood in 2011, prompting the Friends of Freeman’s Wood to submit an application to Lancashire County Council for the land to be registered as a Town Green.

The group collected evidence from residents who had been using the land as of right for recreation for many years – in some cases going back to the 1950s and 60s.

Coun Jon Barry at the site.

Coun Jon Barry at the site.

However this application has not yet been dalt with.

The city council’s draft Local Plan designates Freeman’s Wood as local green space, which would give it protection similar to green belt land if the plan was adopted next year.

However, until then the plan carries little weight.

Emily Heath, secretary of the Friends of Coronation Field and Freeman’s Wood, said: “Local residents want Freeman’s Wood to remain as public green space. It is a haven for wildlife and has been well-used for recreation by many people over the last few decades.

“There are already plans for more than 1,000 new homes on former industrial (brownfield) land on the quay.

“Let’s send a clear message to Satnam and the city council that we want green spaces with high biodiversity like Freeman’s Wood to be protected from development.”

Cherry Canovan, a local resident who co-runs the Save Freeman’s Wood Facebook group, said: “Local people have used and valued this land for decades.

“Wild green space is an important community asset, and we are totally opposed to the idea of destroying it to build houses.

“The developers have not publicised this ‘consultation exercise’ well – I know many people living near the wood who did not receive a leaflet inviting them to participate – and the leaflet itself is misleading in that it makes no mention of Freeman’s Wood.

“Nevertheless I expect many local residents to take part in the process and tell the developers that the people of Lancaster will stand together to oppose this plan.”

Coun Jon Barry said: “I am completely against the plans put forward by Satnam, as are hundreds of others in the Marsh area and throughout Lancaster.

“Freeman’s Wood is a special place that local people have used for many years. It is also rich in wildlife.

“The proposal put forward by Satnam will destroy Freeman’s Wood and I will do everything I can to prevent this happening.

“Satnam’s proposal is against the City Council’s policy to designate the land as a local green space in the emerging local plan.

“Hundreds of new houses have, and will continue to be, built along the quay. These have virtually no green spaces attached to them – and so Freeman’s Wood will be even more essential in future as a space for people to relax and for children to play in.”

The land was originally a recreation ground for employees of Williamson’s lino factory on the quay.

“These proposals will not only bring the city new homes to address the shortage of housing in Lancaster, but will protect the adjacent woodland, and the footpaths which cross the site,” said consultation manager Ruth Shepherd.

“This is an outline proposal at this stage, but we do want to hear the views of the community, businesses and other stakeholders to ensure that we are achieving the best possible outcome for this piece of land.”

Anyone who was unable to attend the consultation can also comment at resultscommunications.co.uk from 10am today, Thursday April 6.

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