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Future of idyllic countryside area secured after purchase by Forestry England

PUBLISHED: 17:00 10 November 2020 | UPDATED: 18:09 10 November 2020

Forestry England has purchased the freehold for Croxton Estate, which forms a part of Thetford Forest. Picture: Forestry England

Forestry England has purchased the freehold for Croxton Estate, which forms a part of Thetford Forest. Picture: Forestry England

Archant

The future of an idyllic countryside landscape seen as prime for recreation and conservation has been secured for years to come.

After three years of negotiations, the Croxton Estate has been purchased by Forestry England - almost a century after it was first offered for sale to the Forestry Commission.

The 2,500 hectares of land, which forms part of Thetford Forest, were bought by Crown Estate Commissioners 92 years ago, when the Forestry Commission was short of acquisition funds.

They were instead granted a lease, limiting them to the ‘purposes of afforestation’ only.

Having sealed a deal to buy the freehold using Highways England compensation from the A11 dualling scheme at Thetford, forestry land agent, Charles Ashley, was enthusiastic about the site’s potential.

Anne Mason, chairman of Friends of Thetford Forest, is excited about Forestry England's purchase of Croxton Estate. Picture: Sonya DuncanAnne Mason, chairman of Friends of Thetford Forest, is excited about Forestry England's purchase of Croxton Estate. Picture: Sonya Duncan

He said: “Permanent ownership of the land will enable Forestry England to maximise the opportunity for public benefits and safeguard our investment in recreation, conservation and trees.

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“We are really excited about the potential for expanding public access following the acquisition.

“Our first step will be to undertake detailed planning to get the balance right between new access rights, nature conservation and existing land uses. We will then provide more information about extended access.”

The Croxton Estate, which has several existing tenants including the military for training purposes, lies within the Breckland Special Protection Area and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

It includes lowland heath, heritage features and part of the Little Ouse river, creating considerable scope for nature conservation and environmental improvements.

Forestry England’s purchase is the largest single freehold acquisition ever in East England Forest District, and will connect additional land to the popular High Lodge Visitor Centre.

Anne Mason, chairman of the Friends of Thetford Forest, said: “This year has shown how important it is for all of us to be outdoors, for our health and wellbeing, so increasing the extent of Thetford Forest is a wonderful and most welcome achievement.”

And forest management director, Alex Brearley, added: “Securing the freehold on this important estate has ensured its long-term viability and future.

“We look forward to developing plans to enhance the area for the public, nature conservation, timber production and carbon capture.”


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