Expensive buy

PUBLISHED: 11:46 25 September 2008 | UPDATED: 13:37 06 May 2010

SIR, — The concept of the proposed forest development in Sandridge by The Woodland Trust is exciting but is being clouded about issues on the use of donated funds. Of the £8.5 million budget, £5.95 million is being paid to the owner/owners of the land at

SIR, - The concept of the proposed forest development in Sandridge by The Woodland Trust is exciting but is being clouded about issues on the use of donated funds.

Of the £8.5 million budget, £5.95 million is being paid to the owner/owners of the land at Hill End Farm, for the 850 acres allocated to the project. Hill End Farm, comprising a farmhouse, buildings and 960 acres of land was purchased in the Spring of 2006 for £3.85 million.

If we assume the pro rata value of the 850 acres at the time of purchase was £3 million then £2.95 million profit is being made by the owner/owners on the deal. This profit equates to 35 per cent of all donated funds and I believe that this fact should be made clear to all prospective donors.

Another puzzling factor is the proposed building development at Hill End Farm. The Woodland Trust state that their deal on the land was agreed in March 2008. In June 2008 Legal Estates PLC applied for planning permission (5/2008/0893) for accommodation for agricultural use and justified this on the requirement to farm all 960 acres and this was approved in July 2008. Surely St Albans District Council's planning department should have been made aware of the proposed forest deal prior to making a decision on this application?

I hope that the forest goes ahead but feel that there is scope to renegotiate this deal to the benefit of the charity and its benefactors. I am aware also that the Charity Commission have been requested by another resident to look into this matter.

JOHN STOCKER,

Nomansland, Wheathampstead.

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