A number of woodlands across Rossendale have been put up for sale once again by the county council, after talks with community groups stalled.
The 35 acres of publicly-owned woodlands in Crawshawbooth, Rawtenstall, Weir and Edenfield were due to be sold late last year, but were saved after backlash from the community stopped them going under the hammer.
However, following a six month period where no formal bids were presented by the groups to purchase or take use of the land, the sites are now listed back up for auction on Rightmove and on Lancashire County Council’s website.
It’s understood that there have already been a number of prospective buyers that have come forward.
County Councillor David Foxcroft, who represents the Mid Rossendale division, told LancsLive that the woodlands are not being sold as development sites.
“It’s absolutely understandable that the community is concerned about the sites going up for sale,” he said.
“I will support them in protecting these sites in their current form going forward,” he added.
The woodlands are all located in sites which Cllr Foxcroft says would be ‘completely inappropriate’ for development, such as the Sunny Bank Woodland in Crawshawbooth which has extremely limited access and is on a near-vertical hill.
“The sites will not be developed beyond their current use. They just might be looked after better.
“Any change of use would have to go through the full process and would have to be earmarked by the council as a redevelopment site.
“They are so inaccessible and are not developable by any stretch of the imagination, and I know that the people who have expressed interest did not have a view to develop on the sites, so I don’t see redevelopment happening at all.”
Cllr Foxcroft said he would point towards the former Alder Grange playing fields off Bacup Road in Rawtenstall as an example of land that has been sold but has been protected from further development.
Rossendale and Darwen MP Jake Berry had hailed the woodland’s withdrawal from public auction as a ‘victory’ just prior to the December 2019 election, however has not immediately responded to a request for comment on these latest developments.
The Crawshawbooth Community Association were the group which initially wrote to council leader Geoff Driver urging him to withdraw the lots from the auction, however no formal bids have been received to take any plans further..
Options given to community groups include jumping the queue and buying the land for the guide price (under ‘community right to bid’), or taking responsibility for the land from the council for a nominal fee.
Despite the current pandemic being a potential reason as to why no bids have been sent off, it’s understood that any extension on the six-month consultation period is unlikely.
Lancashire County Council did not respond to a formal request for comment on the news, but previously told LancsLive that any land going to auction is ‘no longer required by us to provide services for people in Lancashire’.
A spokesperson said: “We routinely check with partner organisations to see if they would be interested in taking them, and if there’s no interest then they are put up for sale.
“Typically these were either previously used to provide our services or were acquired as part of specific schemes.”
The sites up for auction include:
- Greenfold Tree Planting Site, Goodshaw Fold Road, Crawshawbooth - 2.3ha of woodland with frontage to Limy Water River
- Sunny Bank Woodland, Stoneholme Road, Crawshawbooth - 2.45ha of woodland with frontage to the Limy Water River
- Bottomley Tree Planting Site, Bottomley Bank Lane, Crawshawbooth - 2.35ha of woodland
- Horncliffe Quarry Woodlands, Bury Road, Rawtenstall - 2.14ha and 0.06ha parcels of woodland
- Scar End Hey Tree Planting Site, Weir Lane, Weir - 2.19ha of woodland
- Crow Wood, Blackburn Road, Edenfield - 2.42ha of woodland.