Fresh bid to save Bintree Woods, near Fakenham

Michael Davies in Bintree Woods. Picture: Ian Burt

Michael Davies in Bintree Woods. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

New efforts are being made to give special protection to an area of woodland near Fakenham which was once proposed to be dug up and turned into part of Europe's biggest gravel and landfill site.

Those proposals for Bintree Woods were made by the government's Forestry Commission, which owns the woods, in partnership with building materials company Ennstone Johnstone and included digging up the entire 120-hectare wood to extract three million tonnes of sand and gravel for Norfolk's roads and homes.

The proposals, made back in 2008, were met with fierce local opposition and were refused planning permission.

In the last few days residents of nearby villages including Bintree, Billingford and North Elmham have submitted an application to Norfolk County Council for Bintree Woods to be registered for 'village green' status.

If successful, this would see the woods protected as a public open space.

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Michael Davies, 70, from Billingford, who submitted the application on behalf of local residents, said: 'I am not aware of any current plans for the woods but we've been planning to do this for about two years, since the gravel extraction plans were refused.

'We are pleased that the council turned down that application and we have no problems with the normal work done there by the Forestry Commission.

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But we don't know what could happen in the future.

'The government's strategy is to push through with developments in the countryside at the moment and, who knows, the woods could be sold off in the future.'

As part of the application, residents need to prove that the woods have been used over a period time by local people who have 'indulged in lawful sports and pastimes.'

Mr Davies said statements have been given by more than 70 people in support of the application.

They point to activities such as nature trails, bird watching and children's parties.

Mr Davies said: 'This is an opportunity to protect the woods that many people enjoy.

'I would encourage other people to do this elsewhere.

'I'd say our chances of success are about 50/50.'

Mr Davies expects an outcome within the next few months.

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