Planning consultants, Satnam, working for The Property Trust PLC, are drafting a controversial new proposal to build 250 new homes on the land now occupied by Freeman's Wood. They will be holding a consultation display about it at the Storey, this Wednesday 5 April, from 12 noon - 6.45pm. There will also be an online survey with information made available after 10am on Thursday 6 April.
Satnam 'Protecting the Green Belt'
Satnam claim in their promotional material that their development would 'help protect other open green belt areas of land around Lancaster'. To achieve this they would have to persuade the City Council to substitute Freeman's Wood for one of the parcels of land earmarked for development in the draft Local Land Allocation Plan.
Satnam also state that the Freeman's Wood site 'would be the last to be brought forward for development in this part of the City', although they don't explain what influence or interest they would have over land they do not own.
Freeman's Wood and Satnam - Background
When a high steel fence was erected around Freeman's Wood in January 2012, Lancastrians were outraged at losing a very popular recreational area. The fence itself is a brutal ugly structure, and not only were mature trees felled along its route, but tons of old industrial and construction waste buried there by the old linoleum factory were unearthed and exposed (see photos), giving rise to fears of asbestos contamination, now that this old landfill site had been so severely disturbed.
It was discovered that the land there now belonged to The Property Trust Group, a Bermuda-based company headed by a Hong Kong businessman, while the work was being carried out by their agents, development consultants Satnam.
The trees of were subject to a City Council Tree Preservation Order (TPO), which had obviously suffered multiple breeches. Satnam lodged an appeal against the TPO and in March 2012 workmen were seen felling more trees on the land, apparently with impunity. Satnam's appeal was overruled and the TPOs retained but no action appears to have been taken in regard to the breech of the TPOs and the exposure and dumping of wind-blown waste, both inside and outside the fenced area, despite the mess, eyesore and nuisance to local walkers.
The brutish nature of Satnam's incursion into Lancaster provoked a number of responses. Signs mounted on the fence by the developers were defaced, with eye-catching comments. Parts of the fence were loosened, allowing people to continue using the footpaths recreationally.
In 2014 the StoreyG2 arts organisation launched a project called 'Landed' to "explore the issue of land-ownership and its significance for people and places. It is centred on a plot of land between the River Lune and Willow Lane in Lancaster, known as Freeman’s Wood, 'where the interests of the local community have collided with those of global capital.'"
A phone app called 'Trespass' was designed that provided a guided walk through the enclosure and its local history. Neighbouring residents, backed by the Green party, mounted a campaign to have the area recognised as a Village Green and protected under the Local Plan.
Satnam's rejected Warrington plan 'unwanted and unsustainable'
So Satnam will have their hands full. And not for the first time. Their proposal to build 1,200 homes at Peel Hall ('the last green space in Warrington') was turned down in February, despite their similar promises to help the local football club there.
Speaking to the Warrington Guardian, Chris Vobe, Vice Chair of Warrington North Labour Party, said the decision was "a victory for residents throughout Warrington North," adding, "Labour have stood resolutely with campaigners in opposing Satnam’s unwanted and unsustainable plans."
If you can't get to the Storey on Wednesday, the information provided there will be available on the consultation website at www.resultscommunications.co.uk from 10am next Thursday 6 April 2017.