By Phil Belden
Conservation Advisor to the Sussex Wildlife Trust
After the Damage & Destruction – a halt, cancelled inquiry and a new owner
Breaking news, with no further details yet – Pondtail Wood has just been sold. This neatly avoids the imminent public inquiry into enforcement of the illegal damage done to the site.
The inquiry had been called because the pre-sale landowner objected to the enforcement notice placed on him by the National Park (Planning) Authority. This was supported by two other legal interested parties, Mid-Sussex District Council in whose area the wood lies and Forestry Commission as this woodland clearance was done without a felling licence and they’ve issued a Re-stocking Notice for the felled trees to be replaced.
The Sussex Wildlife Trust has been working hard to raise awareness of this precious site, both with the authorities and local community. The Trust's Chief Executive Tony Whitbread has articulated the value of and concerns over this woodland, written blogs (see https://sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/news/pondtail-wood-centuries-of-woodland-history-destroyed-in-a-few-weeks) and generally pushed hard with others to get this sad matter resolved.
The inquiry may have provided the opportunity, not only to save the remnant Pondtail Wood, where much of its heart has been illegally ripped out and then dumped on, but to fully restore it, to re-create our distinctive ancient woodland, of which some 50% of all woodlands across the South Downs National Park can be traced back more than 400 years. We need to await further news from the National Park as to what happens next with the new owner. Much will depend on their attitude, but s/he will have some work to do to restore this wood as both National Park Authority and Forestry Commission are insisting on this being done, regardless of who owns the site. Tony wrote a sobering blog on “making good”: https://sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/news/pondtail-wood.
When we have some solid information we’ll post up some more info. If you’re interested, keep your eye on the SDNPA website for updating news: