Site to be returned to its former glory

This Is Wiltshire: Steve Thompson will be helping to plant more than  1,000 trees at Kembrey Grass on February 15 Steve Thompson will be helping to plant more than 1,000 trees at Kembrey Grass on February 15

EXACTLY two years to the day that a public meeting was held to inform residents of plans to build on a popular green space, an event is being held to return the area to its former glory.

The former allotment site at Pickards Small Field and Kembrey Grass was threatened with housing back in 2012, and a public meeting was held to inform residents of the controversial plans by developer Haboakus.

Residents were outraged at the plans, and a community group - the Hreod Burna Parkway Conservation Group, was established and a successful campaign to stop the development followed.

And now, on February 15, a tree planting day will be held at the site thanks to the Forestry Commission’s Big Tree Plant Funding and the Great Western Community Forest, which are donating 1,000 trees and 25 standard fruit trees.

Chair of the group, Steve Thompson, said: “Because the open space was so important, being one-third of the total open space in Gorse Hill, I drew up a plan to turn the area into an urban forest to protect the abundant wildlife in the area and to improve the area for not only the people of Pinehurst and Gorse Hill, but of Swindon in general.

“By hard campaigning on several fronts, by many local people, we were lucky in that the developer pulled out. As we were not a charity at the time, we could not sign an agreement with the council, so Councillor Rod Bluh gave us permission to start work in the meantime.

“Since that day we have applied to become a charity and have been accepted by the charity commission and are only awaiting our charity number so as we can sign heads of terms with the council.”

Last winter, the group planted 400 trees that had been donated by the Great Western Community Forest, put in half a mile of hard paths and replaced the bridge across the Hreod Burna that had been removed.

Undergrowth was also cleared, and parts of the area were returned to allotments, in conjunction with Stratton St Margaret Parish Council.

“There will be 40 full-sized allotments, although we expect a lot of them would be let out as half allotments,” said Steve.

“These are not ready to let yet and we will make a further announcement when they are.

“We are giving volunteers a chance to help with our tree planting day.

“Volunteers should wear wellies and bring a spade. Don’t worry if you have no skills at tree planting – it is a simple job and there will be plenty of people to show you how.

“This is an opportunity for whole families who could plant an area and in future, when the trees are grown, to say to their grandchildren ‘we planted those’.”

The event takes place on Feb-ruary 15, from 10am onwards.

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