Residents call meeting to determine fate of ‘wild woodland’ at Littleport as questions remain over access lease to former East Cambs Council leader

Limes close Littleport. Picture: Steve Williams.

Limes close Littleport. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

Former East Cambs Council leader Fred Brown, now a Littleport parish councillor, has refuted claims he did anything wrong in acquiring the lease on a piece of land from Sanctuary Housing Association.

Limes close Littleport. Picture: Steve Williams.

Limes close Littleport. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

Cllr Brown was responding to an outcry over what happened to a ‘wild woodland’ area behind his home and how he acquired a 10 year lease from the housing association to effectively block one of two public accesses.

He said he bought his Parson’s Lane bungalow home in 2009 but was plagued by incidents of anti social behaviour by those entering the woodlands via the path next to his property.

He said police would support his claims of anti social behaviour and as a result he approached Sanctuary and told them: “I’ll take it over”.

Cllr Brown said Sanctuary was prohibited by law from selling any asset other than housing, so he took it over on a 10 year peppercorn lease.

Google view of Littleport access from October 2008

Google view of Littleport access from October 2008 - Credit: Archant

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“If people did their research they would know more about it,” he said. “People say to me ‘why did you steal the land’ and I say ‘I did not.’

“What annoys me is that this could have been resolved with a ding dong on the doorbell.”

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Cllr Brown said the numbers responsible for anti social behaviour “was no more than half a dozen” but had the situation continued, he felt there would be little left of the woodland area and trees anyway.

He added: “If they want it back and ask me to relinquish the lease then I will when it is up.”

Limes close Littleport. Picture: Steve Williams.

Limes close Littleport. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

Neither Sanctuary nor East Cambs Council have been able to explain in detail how the woodland area – opened in 2011 in a blaze of publicity- has been allowed to deteriorate.

The Ely Standard has asked Sanctuary for a more detailed explanation of how Cllr Brown came to acquire the lease and for the appropriateness of granting it to the then most influential councillor in East Cambs.

The Ely Standard has also asked East Cambs Council for copies of councillors’ declarations of interest during the 2008-11 period to verify Cllr Brown recorded the lease publicly. At the time of going to press council officials had not been able to track down the declarations for that period.

Meanwhile villagers have rallied to call a public meeting on September 10 at 12.30pm in the village hall to discuss “items relating to the woodland garden to the rear of Parson’s Lane. All interested parties are welcome.”

Organisers say representatives of Sanctuary, ECDC and Cllr Brown have been invited.

The organising group say minutes will be kept and parishioners can send in questions.

Deborah Curtis Watson, one of the organisers, said: “So far, the agenda will consist of an examination of the Planting Parishes Initiative 2010, the question of barred primary access, the lack of signage, the fact that this ‘community garden’ has been allowed to languish, unseen, by most members of the public, and better future maintenance.

“Also on the agenda will be finding ways to address and improve all these problems.”

She said anyone who has old photos of the site would be welcome to bring them and these could be helpful “in establishing the original ‘right of way’ or ‘access’.”.

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