56.1 The Acting Operations Manager - Legal Services, Clare Dawson-Dulieu, explained that parks officers had visited the site and commented that access to the site was difficult, apart from for some neighbours who could access it through their gardens. Ms Dawson-Dulieu also noted that the Woodland, as drawn in the application, also covered land which was part of back gardens, which were exempt from listing.
56.2 Councillor Harsant explained that she supported the application for listing the site. Councillor Harsant added that it would be good if the Council could purchase the woodland to ensure community access.
56.3 Councillor Barber explained that Councillor Parry had submitted a letter giving her support for the application. This letter would be passed to the Head of People and Governance, who would be making the final decision on the issue.
56.4 Councillor Studd said that he agreed that the site ought to be listed.
56.5 SCC Councillor Gaylard explained that there was a Tree Preservation Order which covered the site, and that it was also listed in the local plan. The woodland was, in her opinion, part of a wider network which supported wildlife in Ipswich. SCC Councillor Gaylard confirmed that she supported the application for listing.
56.6 A local resident, representing White Elm Woodland Community Interest Company (CIC), which had submitted the Asset of Community Value Application, explained that they owned a small part of the woodland and felt that it was an asset of community value. She explained that through local research she had uncovered an extensive history of community use. The resident explained that access had always been very open as the site could be easily entered from various routes including The Beeches, White Elm Street, Mitre Way as well as neighbours back gardens. Examples of community use included:
· the pupils of Cavendish Street boy’s school swimming in the Victorian swimming pool, with the permission of the owners;
· residents fishing in the former swimming pool;
· nature trails and space to play for children.
56.7 The resident noted that 86 of the 91 objections to the main owners’ recent planning application lived in the streets around the woodland and that their objections made clear what it meant to them to have sight of and access to this woodland.
56.8 The resident reported that following the refusal of the recent planning application the current owner had asked if local residents would consider buying the land. Residents had agreed to this and set about creating what is now the White Elm Woodland CIC. The resident explained that, with the help of local Charities such as the Green Light Trust and Eden Rose Coppice Trust, a proposal had been developed, including a forest school project. The owner had now decided, however, not to sell to the White Elm Woodland CIC. The resident commented that this was probably because the owner wished to maximise the potential income from the land.
56.9 The resident explained that as the owner had decided not to sell the land to the White Elm Woodland CIC, an Asset of Community Value application was the only option to try to protect the woodland from further planning applications and potential destruction.
56.10 The resident explained that the Council had refused a previous planning application referencing the many protections afforded to this woodland, including a blanket TPO, and policies DM13 (c), DM10, DM31, DM33, CS4 and CS16 of the Ipswich Core Strategy and Policies Development Plan Document (2017).” The resident noted that these policies described the woodland as being of "local ecological importance” and that the "aforementioned policies sought collectively to protect and enhance the special character and appearance of the site.”
56.11 The resident said that she understood that woods and ponds, semi natural woodlands, open fields and ornamental gardens had all been listed as Assets of Community Value and so this piece of land was not an exceptional case.
56.12 The resident noted that Asset of Community Value registration would not place the current owner under an obligation to sell to the land to White Elm Woodland CIC and asked whether the council could put a moratorium on any future planning applications.
56.13 Councillor Barber explained that the placing of moratorium on planning applications was beyond the Area Committee’s powers.