Monday, 22 July 2019

Firm pulls plans to build on woodland


A footpath through Werry's Spinney.                                           Clive Simpson

A Bourne-based agricultural firm has this week withdrawn its plans to sell off woodland for self-build homes at the heart of the town’s Elsea Park estate.

An application lodged with South Kesteven District Council (SKDC) in May by Wherry & Sons Ltd for the construction of 10 self-build homes attracted a raft of local opposition.

SKDC received more than 300 objections from residents and organisations concerned about the effects on wildlife and local amenity in an area known as Wherry's Spinney.

This week (Monday, 22 July) the company issued a statement saying it had withdrawn its plans but declined to comment further on what the future of the Spinney might be.

Now people living on the estate have urged the firm to re-think its plans for the woodland which bisects a central section of Elsea Park and is designated in the council's local plan to 2036 as a site of 'Nature Conservation Interest'.

Local residents have asked Wherry & Sons to consider offering ownership or management of the Spinney to a local community trust or wildlife association.

"In this way it could be protected and managed for future generations," said Sam Doughty, a resident who helped spear-head a campaign against the development.

"This would be a lovely philanthropic gesture to the people of Elsea Park and Bourne," she added.

Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust was among those organisations which submitted objections to the development.

According to Mark Schofield,  the Trust's conservation officer, the Spinney constitutes "local distinctiveness and a sense of place".

"A self-build development would negatively affect the character and alter the access to woodland within the town," he said.

Mr Schofield added: "There are lots of examples of green spaces managed by the local community and this could be a great option for the site."

Ayla Smith, a resident who has walked her dog in the woodland for more than 30 years, told the Stamford Mercury that the Spinney is a haven for wildlife.

"This is an important wildlife corridor through the estate linking up surrounding SSIs (Sites of Scientific Interest) with Bourne's Well Head Park and the meadows," she said.

Last week SKDC placed an emergency Tree Preservation Order (TPO) on the entire Spinney for six months and said it was likely a permanent order would be confirmed.

Entrance to Wherry's Spinney.                                                    Clive Simpson

Plans for its part-sale and development were drawn up and submitted on behalf of Wherry & Sons by architect and building designer John Dickie, of John Dickie Associates, also based in Bourne.

 "At present the Spinney is 'unmanaged' and in need of a significant amount of work to bring it into a good usable condition - the proposals seek to provide a remedy for this," he stated.

James Wherry, a director and main shareholder of the Bourne-based agricultural firm, said: "We are an international trading company dealing in dry pulses - we are not land speculators or developers.

"This piece of land has been a 'dead asset' on our books for many years and if we can realise an asset gain for our shareholders we are obliged to try to do this."

In 2018 the company had a turnover of £17.4 million, an increase of almost £2 million on the previous year. It has around 16 employees and its listed assets are valued at over £6 million.

The land now known as Wherry's Spinney was originally purchased from British Rail by the company's founder Alderman William Wherry shortly after the town's railway line was closed.

The family business has a long association with Bourne dating back to the mid-1800 when Edward Wherry, the proprietor of Edenham village store, first purchased premises in North Street, Bourne.

His relative William Wherry is credited in the late 1800s as being among the first in the country to recognise the need in the food processing industry for a complete dried pea trading operation.

Article as written and submitted to Stamford Mercury by Clive Simpson on 22 July 2019.