Shropshire Star

Community group who were 'gazumped' when Church sold off land celebrate as developer pulls out

A community group who found themselves 'gazumped' after the Church of England sold off land they planned to turn into a nature project to a developer are celebrating after the developer pulled out of the deal.

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Floyer Lane Community Group lost out on the plot of land in Benthall, just outside Broseley in October last year when the Church Commissioners, who look after the church's assets, sold it to Boningale Homes, which wanted to build 100 homes on the land.

The sale came after the Church Commissioners had promised the land to the group, who had raised "tens of thousands" to buy it. The group had planned to turn the area into a wildlife haven and provide the villagers a place to relax.

However, the land deal to Boningale Homes has fallen through.

Laura Davies of the Floyer Lane Community Group said they had been informed earlier this month by their land agent.

“Ironically we had a meeting the night before when we were talking about the next steps but then our agent called and said the sale had collapsed,” she said.

“The church then called and confirmed it to us and they did apologise for what they put us through.”

The Church Commissioners said they were undertaking a strategic review as to the future of the land.

A spokesperson said:”The proposed sale of the land at Hilltop Farm, Floyer Lane, Benthall to a local developer is no longer proceeding.

“As such, the Church Commissioners for England is taking time to undertake a further strategic review, and to consider next steps with regard to the future of the site.”

Laura said the community group were celebrating, but added: “Yes we are celebrating, and yes it is hesitant as you never know - but at least we are not going to get bulldozers down the bottom of the road.

“But we don't know if they are going to sell it to us. We are just waiting for them to decide.

“For us it was very personal, but we have now been listened to and a lot of it is thanks to Dan Thomas, our local councillor, for helping us,” Laura added.

Nobody at Boningale Homes, which has just announced an 800-home development in Albrighton, was available to comment.

However, Councillor Dan Thomas who assisted the Floyer Lane Group said: "There was a real outcry when the local community group was bounced out of a deal to acquire the land at Floyer Lane last year. The building developers whose late offer caused so much distress have now pulled out of the deal, presumably on the basis that their ambitious proposals are unlikely to come to fruition. I believe that many locally in Benthall, Barrow and Broseley always thought that a plan to build houses on a steeply sloping site, with severe access constraints, was doomed to failure.

"I view this as a success for public opinion, which I was able to convey to Shropshire Council's officers. Local knowledge is always just as important as planning policy and a big chequebook... It was a pleasure to be part of the community group and I'm delighted with a successful outcome for Benthall."