Popular ‘wood’ has links to global economy

Signs in Freeman's Wood.
Signs in Freeman's Wood.
  • City woodland with links to friend of Prince Charles is focus of new project
  • Project focusses on issues of land ownership
  • There will be a display of the work at Campus in the City on April 9

A “scrubby patch of land” in Lancaster with links to a friend of Prince Charles has become the subject of a new art project about land ownership.

Freemans Wood is now surrounded by a six foot high spiked metal fence despite it being a haven for adventurous children, dog walkers, and playing sports for many years.

A planning proposal for the land, between St George’s Quay and Willow Lane, was submitted by owners The Property Trust Plc in 2010 and included housing, office and leisure space.

Now a Lancaster arts organisation has turned its focus on Freemans Wood - collecting information from those that know and hold it dear to create an exhibition, electronic application (App), a game and a play script.

John Angus, from Storey G2, which was formerly based in the Storey Gallery but has now shifted its focus to projects in public spaces, said: “It has been used by local people for decades, and treated as common ground. The installation of fencing around the perimeter in 2011 created much public anger.

“Local residents submitted applications for the site to become a Town Green, and for the designation of public footpaths to run across it. The land is owned by a company which is registered in Bermuda, and whose directors are thought to be from Hong Kong. The director of its property development company is a polo-playing friend of Prince Charles, originally from the Punjab.

It’s so important to have these areas in an age where activity is structured and controlled

“So this scrubby patch of land has direct links to global economic, political, and social networks.”

Reports by residents of trees being cut down on the site led to the city council placing a Tree Preservation Order on the land. Landowners The Property Trust appealed against the decision, saying no “reasonable person” would describe Freemans Wood as woodland, the city council disagreed.

The Town Green application is still pending. A spokesman for the Property Trust Plc said it remained committed to the promotion of the site for appropriate levels of development. It is currently designated as urban green space in the council’s Land Allocations Document.

Mr Angus added: “It has been described as a learning ground for children - it’s a fantastic place for kids to learn about nature.

“All our activities these days are controlled, but many people have said they remember similar pieces of land they’d go to when growing up, unmonitored areas where children could play and build dens.

“It’s so important to have these areas in an age where activity is structured and controlled.”

There will be a display of the work at Campus in the City, in Cheapside, on April 9. More details at www.storeyg2.org.uk