Lancaster’s Freeman’s Wood looks set to become a Town Green after eight year battle

A long fought battle to protect a Lancaster woodland from housing developers looks set to result in victory for campaigners.

Wednesday, 8th January 2020, 2:59 pm
Coun Jason Wood, Coun Mandy Bannon, Emily Heath, Bruce Miller, Wendy Rogerson, Martin Hulland with Emily and Isabel, and Jon Barry.
Coun Jason Wood, Coun Mandy Bannon, Emily Heath, Bruce Miller, Wendy Rogerson, Martin Hulland with Emily and Isabel, and Jon Barry.

The Friends of Freeman’s Wood group is celebrating the news that their application to have Freeman’s Wood designated as a Town Green could be approved next month.

The application was put to a Public Inquiry in August 2019, and the Friends have recently received a copy of the 134-page report by the Planning Inspector who presided over the Inquiry.

He concluded that all the necessary requirements for a Town Green have been established in this case, accepting the evidence provided to the Inquiry that a significant number of people indulged ‘as of right’ in lawful sports and pastimes on the land for 20 years from the end of 1991 to the end of 2011.

Photo Neil Cross Councillors and residents protesting against housing plans on Freeman's Wood in Lancaster

He therefore recommended that the Town Green application be granted, subject to a minor boundary change to exclude a small strip of land adjoining the Lune Industrial Estate.

Jon Barry, who submitted the Town Green application in 2012 when he was a city councillor for Marsh Ward, said he was delighted that the Public Inquiry Inspector had supported the case.

He said: “Freeman’s Wood is well used by local people and is a haven for wildlife.

“Although we can’t declare a victory yet because the final decision rests with (Lancashire) County Council, I am very hopeful that they will endorse the inspector’s recommendations.”

Photo Neil Cross Councillors and residents protesting against housing plans on Freeman's Wood in Lancaster

The decision on whether to designate the land as a Town Green will be made by a special Sub-Committee of Lancashire County Council at County Hall in Preston on February 10 at 10am.

The large green space, adjacent to the cycle path at the end of New Quay Road, had been partially fenced off by the landowner in late 2011, to the dismay of local residents who had always assumed that it was common land.

In 2019, the owner applied for outline planning permission to build 250 houses on the land, but Lancaster City Council said it had no intention of allocating it for development.

Coun John Reynolds, Cabinet member with responsibility for Planning Policy, said: “Freeman’s Wood is a much-loved community space and haven for wildlife. Through the Local Plan we have already recognised its importance as open space and recreation and had no intention of allocating it for development, but this is another important step in securing its future as an important community asset.

Photo Neil Cross Jon Barry protesting against housing plans on Freeman's Wood in Lancaster

“I would urge the county council to endorse the inspector’s recommendations and grant Town Green status to Freeman’s Wood.”

Emily Heath, secretary of the Friends of Freeman’s Wood, said: “If Freeman’s Wood is designated as a Town Green it will be protected from development and remain as a public green space for informal recreation.

“This is great news for all the dog-walkers, wildlife-watchers, joggers, picnickers, den-builders, kite-flyers, BMX riders and foragers of the Marsh and beyond!”

Photo Neil Cross Councillors and residents protesting against housing plans on Freeman's Wood in Lancaster