UKIP county councillor questions why Sanctuary Housing leased strip of land in Littleport to former council leader Fred Brown

Littleport's 'secret' garden off Parsons Lane

Littleport's 'secret' garden off Parsons Lane - Credit: Archant

A county councillor has stepped into the row over access to community woodland in Littleport by calling for a lease with a former county councillor to be torn up.

Littleport's 'secret' garden off Parsons Lane

Littleport's 'secret' garden off Parsons Lane - Credit: Archant

UKIP county councillor Daniel Divine is questioning why Sanctuary Housing offered the lease to former East Cambs Council leader Fred Brown.

Cllr Divine, who beat Mr Brown in the 2013 county council elections, is angry that a woodland garden off Limes Close and behind Parsons Lane is not more readily accessible to the public.

“In 2010, green space was identified in The Littleport Mater Plan, ‘to enable residents to connect with the natural environment’, and over £13,700 was raised to support the project,” he said.

“That project was administered by ECDC, and trees were planted.”

UKIP's Daniel Divine

UKIP's Daniel Divine - Credit: Archant

He said the land “has been forgotten about, and it seems to have been kicked into the long grass, and many residents that I have spoken to, simply didn’t know that this was a public open space”.

He said the primary access to the woodland garden was blocked off in 2010 by the former leader, Cllr Brown, after securing a lease from sanctuary Housing. Cllr Divine said he had been told it was because of “anti social behaviour, although records show that these incidents were only reported by one individual.

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“I would question why was the access strip leased for a peppercorn rent, when most land that is leased is charged at the going rate? I feel that there is a need for transparency and honesty”.

Cllr Divine said: “This decision to lease the land at peppercorn rent was only for the benefit of one, and not a decision that would favour the community.

“In my opinion Sanctuary should cancel the lease on the access; there is a break clause after December 22 of this year, it makes sense, common sense.”

He added: “This woodland garden, yet to be named, by local residents, would be of much benefit to the community, local schools for educational purposes, and other interested groups.”

Once owned by East Cambs District Council, later sold to Hereward – then Sanctuary- Housing Association, the plot of land off Limes Close has become a wilderness.

Planning applications to build there (the application details have been withdrawn from the East Cambs website) were considered but then abandoned seven years ago by Sanctuary.

Four years ago youngsters planted 300 saplings there as part of a nationwide campaign involving school children in a “long last legacy” on the one acre site: Sanctuary announced they had ‘donated’ both the trees and the land to the community.

But in recent months parish councillors – and hundreds of residents- have taken to social media to question why the area is not being cared for and questioning its future.

A public meeting has already been held to challenge Sanctuary over the land and a second meeting is planned for Monday November 2 at 11am in the village hall.

Cllr Divine said this meeting would have a volunteer coordinator present “to advise on setting up Friends of The Woodland Garden group, and everyone who shares an interest is welcome to attend.”

Sanctuary has promised more detailed explanations of the lease at Monday’s meeting.