Controversial woodland site is put up for sale

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

A controversial woodland site in Mid Sussex - where acres of trees were illegally felled and burnt earlier this year - has now been put up for sale.

Shockwaves were caused back in May when the mass destruction was revealed at Pondtail Wood at Poynings.

And the owner was facing prosecution as a deadline for restorative action loomed this week.

The ancient woodland site was left decimated and large amounts of hardcore were dumped in the area.

A wave of public anger erupted and residents formed a Save Pondtail Wood Action group.

Dr Tony Whitbread, chief executive of the Sussex Wildlife Trust and an expert in ancient woodland habitats, said on first discovering the illegal felling: “This ancient woodland site has been essentially destroyed.

“It’s a devastating loss. It’s an irreplaceable asset.”

The woodland owner was served with a ‘stop’ order - to prevent further damage - by the South Downs National Park Authority and the Forestry Commission.

And a further enforcement notice was later issued requiring the owner to re-plant the acres of trees and restore the woodland to its previous state, or face court action.

They were given a deadline of August 23 to restore the site - but now ‘For Sale’ signs have been erected on the land by estate agents Barnard Marcus.

They state that the woodland will be sold by auction on September 12.

But experts say that whoever buys Pondtail Wood will still have to comply with the legal notices issued in June and carry out re-planting.

A spokesperson for the South Downs National Park Authority said: “We are aware that a for sale sign went up last week, with an auction due to be held on 12 September.

“The landowner is legally entitled to sell the property.

“The notices stay with the land and so will transfer to any new owner.

“The owner should declare the notices prior to any sale.”

The enforcement notice stipulates that the site owners must remove all deposited soils, waste and drainage channels in order to expose the ancient woodland soils - which it is hoped can then support the return of native species.

Pondtail Wood had previously been properly managed for centuries and was replanted with pine and spruce trees 50 years ago - much of them now bulldozed and burnt.

A request for more information about the sale was made to estate agents Barnard Marcus, but no-one from the company had replied to the Middy at the time of going to press.