ePetition details

Sale of Astonbury Wood by HCC - help keep it a woodland and open for continued public use

We the undersigned petition the County Council to , as the current freehold owner of Astonbury Wood, sell the woodland only to a person or organisation that clearly demonstrates that their ownership will: 1. Maximimise the social and environmental benefit to the local community; encouraging greater recreational involvement and continued public use of the woodland 2. Focus on increasing the extent and quality of all the habitats and biodiversity in the woodland 3. Have the capability and resources to maintain and operate the wood on a sustainable basis

Lambert Smith Hampton, under instruction from Hertfordshire County Council are advertising for sale a lease on the woodland with a closing date for bids of 10 February 2021. The sale particulars recognise the status of the wood as an Ancient Semi Natural Woodland but they don’t specify any conditions for continuing public access to the woodland.

Astonbury Wood, a 54.72 acre Ancient Woodland in the Parish of Aston, is on the south east edge of Stevenage. It features on the Hertfordshire County Council website under Places to Visit in the Countryside Management Services section and is described as “An ancient semi-natural woodland with majestic oaks, a substantial wood bank marking a former woodland boundary and bluebells in spring.” and shows a series of waymarked paths within the woods.

Local records indicate that the wood has existed for hundreds of years. Astonbury House, situated next to the wood, was built in the 17th century on the site of a Benedictine Monastery and it is likely the monks made use of the wood. The wood contains several, small ponds. Surveys dating back to 1995 identify the range of trees (oak, hornbeam, beech, ash, elm), a wide range of woodland animals (badgers, foxes, muntjac and fallow deer, harvest mice, water shrew), birds (hawfinch, woodcock, marsh tit, great spotted woodpecker etc) and great crested newts in at least one of the ponds.

The wood has been enjoyed by many local residents, both from Aston and Stevenage over the years and is a tranquil place to walk and be close to nature. There are many fond memories of the school trips that used to use visit the wood and gave children the opportunity to learn about and appreciate the biodiversity in Hertfordshire.

In 2015 Hertfordshire County Council produced the 41 page “Astonbury Wood Management Plan 2015 - 2020”. Included in the plan was the following objective:

ACCESS, RECREATION AND VOLUNTEERING – To encourage greater recreational involvement and use by the local community. This was to be achieved by:

C1 Improving visitors’ ability to easily find their way around the woodland, including links to the wider rights of way network
C2 Providing clearly signed entrance points to the woodland
C3 Developing on-site interpretation for visitors
C4 Providing opportunities for volunteers to contribute to management of the wood.

The 5 Year plan was fully supported by Aston parishioners but all works ceased after the first year.

Please support this ePetition to help keep Astonbury Wood a woodland, wildlife haven, open for public use and out of the hands of property developers and recreational bike trekking and shooting companies (e.g. paintball, lasertag etc).

Started by: Helena Lovett (Aston Parish Council)

This ePetition runs from 23/12/2020 to 29/01/2021.

1275 people have signed this ePetition.