Community group in last chance to buy Train Wood in Norwich

Dog walkers enjoy the footpath along the site of the former Noriwch City Station. Photograph Simon P

Dog walkers enjoy the footpath along the site of the former Noriwch City Station. Photograph Simon Parker - Credit: Archant

A 12-acre section of Norwich woodland valued at £25,000 is set to be pulled from auction to give a community group a chance to buy it.

Norfolk County Council's plan to sell off Train Wood has attracted widespread opposition as campaigners fear public access could be restricted if a private bidder purchases it.

But the authority is due to give a community group six months to develop a business case and raise the cash to buy the land, which marks the start of Marriott's Way in the city, off Barn Road roundabout.

The individual leading the unknown group has yet to be revealed but it is said they want to protect the land for public use and also as a potential rail connection between Norwich and north Norfolk.

Cliff Jordan, county council cabinet member for efficiency, told the Evening News: 'I've said to the group if you give me a letter of intent, the county council will back your request and allow you to have six months from the letter of intent to raise the funds, £25,000, for the purchase of the wood for the community.

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'They have gone to a lot of trouble to come and see me. If they give me a letter from the group then that's a commitment.'

Campaigners and Green Party councillors have called on Norwich City Council to work with the county council to secure a deal to keep the land, which was the site of Norwich City Railway Station from 1882 to 1969, in public ownership for Norwich residents to 'use and enjoy'.

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Stuart McPherson, a representative of Friends of Norwich City Station, presented a petition of more than 1,900 signatures to the city council cabinet last week.

The friends group has also been working to restore railway heritage at the site.

Phil Hardy, a green adviser to the county council cabinet, and the individual behind the new group met Mr Jordan on Wednesday.

Mr Hardy, Thorpe Hamlet county councillor who left the Green Party for the Tories in 2011, said he wanted to hear from groups and people interested in helping to protect the land.

He said: 'Although there are clearly a lot of responsibilities and potential liabilities a community group must cover, they are not insurmountable.

'It would be exciting to see if a community group could bring a new perspective and fresh ideas to the management of the land to maximise public benefit.'

An auction listing for Train Wood has emerged and states: 'The land forms the start of Marriott's Way and the sale will be subject to the continued free use of the Marriott's Way path through the site for the benefit and enjoyment of walkers, cyclists and horse riders. The purchaser will have to maintain the existing path to a standard to allow the passage over it by its users.

'The land is an important area of green space and would suit an amenity buyer looking for a unique large area of land close to the centre of Norwich. The land will be sold subject to all rights, easements, quasi-easements and wayleaves as may affect it.'

Anyone wanting to express an interest in helping the community group can contact Mr Hardy on 07920 286617.

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