Campaigners step up battle to keep Norwich woodland in public ownership
- Credit: Archant
The battle to keep an area of Norwich woodland in public ownership was stepped up this weekend.
The Friends of Norwich City Station (FONCS) were joined by Green councillors and other campaigners at Train Wood, off Barn Road, for a petition day on Saturday.
Collectively they have been campaigning to try and stop Norfolk County Council from selling the five-acre area of woodland at the city-centre end of Marriott's Way, near the area's Halfords store.
The county council insist any sale will be subject to the continued free use of the Marriott's Way path and any potential owner's maintenance of the existing path.
The campaigners have already had over 1,000 people sign a petition calling on the county council and Norwich City Council to work together to retain the woodland for the public.
That petition, which was started by the Norwich Green Party, is due to be handed over at the county council cabinet meeting at City Hall today and then again at the city council meeting on Wednesday, April 17.
Leader of the Green Group at the county council, Richard Bearman, who is councillor for the Mancroft ward which includes Train Wood, was one of people to attend the petition day.
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Mr Bearman said: 'The real concern is if the site is sold, what happens after? We've been told there are restrictions to preventing access to Marriott's Way but we all know once property is in private hands it could be sold on and a planning application could be put in.
'This is the same piece of land that back in the 1990s was protected from road building by the same county council that is now proposing to sell it.
'It's an important nature site and non-motorist route and this petition is calling for it to remain in public hands.'
Also attending was Lucy Galvin, city councillor for Wensum ward, as she is a member of the Friends of Marriott's Way.
Mrs Galvin said another 80 signatures were added to paper petitions yesterday.
'It was a very successful morning with lots of people coming through, cyclists, walkers, families, dog walkers, and everyone was very supportive of our cause,' she said.
'This site is a really critical little link for Norwich. One of the positive reasons to keep it are that it is a gateway to Marriott's Way. It's very under-improved, there's a lot more that could be made of it.
'The owners of the rail franchise (Greater Anglia) are very keen on cycling and it would be very easy to get off the train in Norwich and cycle off into the countryside.
'There aren't even cycle racks there (at Train Wood) at the moment so I fear we are throwing away a chance to create a very pleasant gateway to the countryside for tourists and people in the city.'
Mrs Galvin is also sceptical about the land generating money for the county or city council in the long run and has called on both to work together to improve the site.
She added: 'One of the key worries is that it won't be maintained properly. if you get someone buy it who doesn't maintain it properly then the local authorities will have to go after the owner to maintain it and will end up spending more money on enforcing maintenance, which costs a lot of money.
'The county aren't going to generate funds selling it, they might save funds on maintaining it but it will cost more to ensure it's maintained by a private owner.'
- To sign the online petition, go to www.change.org and search for 'Train Wood'.
- Are you starting a campaign? Contact reporter David Freezer on 01603 772418 or firstname.lastname@example.org