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Save the Staverton Wildlife Area


What happens next.......................................

Firstly a big thank you to all those who came to the extraordinary PC meeting on Saturday morning.  I know it was a difficult time for many but 48 people were there and that spoke loudly for the support you have given to this campaign.

Well, we have success in that the PC passed a motion to sell the wildlife area and boardwalk to the Staverton Wildlife and Conservation Area Society for £15001.  It was disappointing that the majority of the council did not listen to the parishioners wishes to wholeheartedly rescind their decision to sell the land to Thulborns and they have put conditions to us that we lodge the £15001 with our solicitors by 26th January who then need to write to the council confirming that it is there and that we are in a position to complete by 31st January.  If we do not do this then they revert to their decision to sell to Thulborn Ltd.


So it is really important that you pledge the funding as soon as possible

The PC will then use the £15000 to buy the allotment field from the Church Commissioners and they will then need to register it as a village asset so that it is safeguarded.

This does not jeopardise the sale to the Society as we have two firm offers of loans to cover this so we will be able to go ahead in the time. 

However we now need to raise money to pay off the loans as quickly as possible.  We are hoping to achieve this also by the 31st January.

At present we are working on finalising a bank account but this takes some time.  Hopefully we will have news of a solution to that next week.  In the meantime if you wish to give money please contact  for a pledge form.


If 150 people give £100 then we are pretty well there.  (There will be solicitors fees to pay as well).  To put this in context, it was pointed out that this was the price of a medium size free range organic turkey from Riverford.

Please return your completed pledge form to Alison Alexander either electronically or through her letterbox - The Old School, Staverton.

We will be holding a general meeting of the Staverton Wildlife & Conservation Area Society very soon so that you can all come and hear what has been done so far, give your opinions and become involved.

There will be some fundraising activities also to look forward to.

Please get in touch if you have any skills that you think would be useful to us or any good ideas. Thanks again for your support. It has brought us this far.  Well done.


Alison Alexander

Please also sign the on-line petition which is available at the following website:


This petition is for anyone to sign regardless of whether they live in the village or not.  It is particularly useful for those who visit or were brought up in the area and know and care about what happens here.  It is also  for others who live locally but are not able to sign the written petition.  So please do tell your relatives and friends about it.



1. Background

At their November meeting Staverton Parish Council decided to sell the area of Woodland in Staverton situated between the Boardwalk and Thulborn Ltd’s depot to Thulborn Ltd in order to raise the funds required (£15,000) to purchase the freehold of the Landscove allotment site from the Church Commissioners. The Church Commissioners had set a deadline of Dec 31 (now extended to Jan 31 2015) for exchange of contracts.

At that meeting the Woodland was described in the agenda as a piece of ‘rough land’ and it would be difficult to argue that councillors individual voting decisions were not influenced by this description. However, it is in fact a natural Wildlife Area of considerable ecological merit and interest which was bought by the Parish Council 20 years ago with the intention of keeping it in community ownership as a natural wildlife area.  Also, the two Staverton resident councillors were absent from the meeting when this was being considered and voted on, so were unable to comment or vote.


The sale to Thulborns should therefore not go ahead. The newly formed Staverton Wildlife & Conservation Area Society has put forward two alternative proposals which will negate the need to sell to Thulborns and will keep the Wildlife Area and the Allotment Site in community ownership in perpetuity.


2. Reasons why the Wildlife Area must not be sold to Thulborns


2.1 Historical context


This land was bought by the Parish Council from the Church Commissioners in 1993 at the same time as it also bought The Court Room, Childrens’ Playground, Playing Field and the Land Adjoining the Dart Valley Railway (Riverside Walk). All these sites were put in trust except the Wildlife Area. The reason why it was excluded is no longer known, but the councillor who at the Parish Council meeting in January 1994 proposed the motion - that was carried by just one vote - to exclude it from the trust now has no idea why he opposed it and, in light of the present threat of it being sold, bitterly regrets that decision.

We are told by Spencer Keys, who was a councillor at the time that the aim of the PC was to buy all the land being sold by the Church Commission between the river Dart and the road to Staverton village to consolidate its holding and link the whole area and put it in trust for the benefit, free access and visual pleasure of the public. By what now appears to have been an accident of history the Wildlife Area was unfortunately excluded from that trust.

However, the Parish Council does acknowledge that it is a Wildlife Area – it was described as such in the minutes of their meeting in Jan 1994 and the Council’s own plaques on the gates to the area state:

This nature area is provided for the residents and visitors alike......Please keep out of the adjacent Wildlife Area which has been fenced off as a habitat for flora and fauna......which has been provided to commemorate the Third Millennium.

2.2  Ecological

It is a wet woodland site with significant biodiversity which is of considerable ecological interest and merit. The respected professional ecologist, Dr Peter Beale, who is acting as ecological advisor to the Staverton Wildlife & Conservation Area Society has inspected the site with the chairman of the Society and Spencer Keys and has written a report (copies available on request) to confirm its importance.

The Wildlife Trust has issued a report on December 22 highlighting the importance of small Local Wildlife Sites such as this and the urgent need to ensure their conservation. Their Director says “ There is a real and pressing need for Local Wildlife Sites – one of England’s largest natural assets – to receive the recognition of their true value to society.....Many are quiet, unnoticed wild places in which nature thrives...[they] are the Cinderella of the natural environment. All act as links and corridors between other important habitats and are crucial to securing nature’s recovery. They are vitally important for people as well as wildlife; bringing tangible benefits to local communities and contributing significantly to our quality of life, health, well-being and education.”

2.3 Environmental & Conservation

The area provides a natural backdrop to the Riverside Walk and must be conserved as such. It also provides a Green Belt buffer between the industrial site currently occupied by Thulborn Ltd and the village, so blocking any possible extension of the industrial site.

The question has to be asked: why would a highway maintenance company want to acquire this Wildlife Area adjacent to their depot (which appears to be operating at full capacity)?  However honourable their intentions may be (and we are not suggesting otherwise – after all it was the Parish Council that approached them in the first place to buy the land, so for all we know they may well believe they are doing the village a favour by buying it), it must be noted that they do have the equipment in their yard to flatten the Wildlife Area overnight. We are not saying they would, but it would be naive and unwise to ignore the fact that they, or their successors, could. Whatever covenants were put on a sale would be worthless if that were to happen because it could not be restored, and whatever assurances any purchaser may give, once the site is sold out of community ownership all control of its future conservation would be lost.

It is also noted that occupants of the yard (either current or previous owners or tenants) have demolished part of the boundary fence between the yard and the Wildlife Area and rubble from the yard is encroaching on the Wildlife Area. This shows there has been a careless disregard for the Wildlife Area.

3. What is the Staverton Wildlife & Conservation Area Society?

This Society (SWCAS) has been formed to protect the Wildlife Area from sale to an outside interest. It is being set up as a Community Land Trust within the legal framework of a Community Benefit Society. It is applying for registration under the Cooperative and Community Benefits Act 2014 and will seek registration as a charity with the Charity Commission and HMRC. It is early days, but we already have a provisional constitution and management committee, very strong support within the Parish and are proceeding at full speed to be fully established as soon as possible.

Membership will be open to everyone resident in the Parish on payment of a once off nominal subscription of £1. Each member will have one vote at general meetings and will elect the management committee. Community Benefit Societies are governed by the Cooperative Movement and this structure will ensure that it embraces the whole Parish community as stakeholders and owners of its assets.

The Society is including an ‘asset lock’ in its constitution that will ensure that its assets are held for the benefit of the members (ie. The Parish Community) in perpetuity.

The society will be funded by donations raised from Parishioners and other supporters.  It is clear from the level of support already offered that it will have no difficulty in raising the £15000 required to purchase the Allotments. But as that will take time to collect, the Society is holding confirmed written offers of interest free loans to that amount from private individuals that are immediately available.  

4. The Society’s proposals for the way ahead

The Staverton Wildlife Area Society will purchase the Wildlife Area and Boardwalk for £15001 and hold them in trust and maintain them for the benefit of parish community. This will give the Parish Council the funds it requires to purchase the Allotments at Landscove by the set date of Jan 31 2015.


There is an option after one year for the Society to either retain ownership of the Wildlife Area and put an ‘asset lock’ on it so that it is held in perpetuity for the community, or transfer ownership back to the Parish Council to manage. That decision can be taken once all the funds have been raised.


The purchase will be financed initially by interest free loans kindly offered by two local people. These will be replaced and paid off by donations from parishioners and other supporters. More information on the fund-raising will follow once we (hopefully) have the Parish Council’s decision to sell to the Society on December 27.


If you want more information, to comment or make suggestions, you can contact either:


Bruce Thorogood, Chairman of the Staverton Wildlife & Conservation Area Society at:


or the Secretary Alison Alexander on 762291



Bruce Thorogood

Chair - Staverton Wildlife & Conservation Area Society



Posted on December 31 2014