Shropshire Star

Community group 'gazumped' by Church of England land deal are shortlisted in nature film award

A Shropshire residents' group that wanted to turn a plot of land owned by the Church of England into a nature reserve have been shortlisted in a national nature competition.

Residents in Benthall near Broseley upset after being 'gazumped' by Church of England land deal

The Floyer Lane Community group had been attempting to buy a plot of land owned by the Church of England in Benthall, just outside Broseley, to turn it into a nature reserve.

Despite agreeing a deal to buy the land, valued at more than £300,000, the Church Commissioners, who handle asset sales for church, reneged at the eleventh hour and sold the site to a housing developer - leaving the community group 'gazumped'.

However, The Floyer Lane Community Group said they are 'delighted' that their efforts have now been recognised by a nature campaign, which shortlisted a video created by the group in a national competition.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) asked for videos that capture the importance of the countryside to the community for their Love Green Spaces competition.

Richard Smith from the group said: "The Floyer Lane Community group are delighted to have reached the final of a filmmaking competition to focus attention on the value of green spaces to the people that use them.

"Our video captured the sounds of nature and views across the meadows. We were delighted that Charles and Sally Green from CPRE came to award us with a #LoveGreenSpaces poster in recognition of our creative work.

"But the ultimate irony is that the fields in the film are being sold by The Church Commission.

"Our group’s bid, which had been accepted by The Church Commission within the tender process, was then gazumped by a building company who wants to build lots of houses there."

He added: "The success of this film will draw attention to our case and hopefully change people’s minds."

The Church Commissioners moved to justify the decision to pull out of the deal with the community group in October by saying they were legally bound to "achieve the best returns they prudently can from property transactions".

However, members of the group describe the Church Commissioners' actions as a 'scandal'. Charles Green said: "It remains a scandal that the Church Commission did not stick to their word.

"This delightful site is quite unsuitable for houses but would greatly help in linking wildlife sites for Nature Recovery; the whole site is in the Shropshire Environmental Network as a Priority Area for Action."

Watch the group's shortlisted video here: