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Blow to village green hopes

PUBLISHED: 16:06 11 October 2001 | UPDATED: 15:18 03 March 2010

A COMMUNITY'S hopes of creating one of the smallest village greens in the country have been dealt a massive blow today - with a major supporter of the project threatening to take back a £65,000 grant.

A COMMUNITY'S hopes of creating one of the smallest village greens in the country have been dealt a massive blow today – with a major supporter of the project threatening to take back a £65,000 grant.

Residents now fear the picture-postcard fishing hamlet of Felixstowe Ferry could be ruined with the land used instead for a holiday village or homes.

Organisers of the millennium project had been facing a race against time to raise the cash to buy the land for the green.

They had been given an exclusive option until November to buy the site for £211,000 and were more than half-way towards their target.

But now the campaigners say the Countryside Agency has decided to "pull the rug from our feet" and demand back the money which it had donated.

Council chiefs were today involved in a last-ditch attempt to try to persuade the agency, which had given £65,000, not to withdraw the cash.

Tony Ratcliffe, chairman of the Felixstowe Ferry Trust, said he was deeply disappointed at the change of heart and now feared the worst.

He said the Countryside Agency had brought forward the deadline for raising the rest of the money without warning and little reason.

"We were told the Millennium Commission wanted to wrap the whole thing up and we had to raise the rest of the money by July or face losing the grant. We were given a stay of execution after we spoke to them, but told it would then be September instead," said Mr Ratcliffe.

"The Countryside Agency and the commission have known all along that we had until November to buy the land.

"Now they have just pulled the rug from beneath our feet.

"We have been working extremely hard for the past year. We have raised £30,000 – which is fantastic for a small community like ours.

"We still had some avenues to explore and we would have hoped that we could have taken our progress to the landowners to see if they were prepared to negotiate the price or give us extra time."

The trust had also hoped to receive National Lottery help, but after several months' liaising with the organisers, who seemed to like the project, their application was rejected at the last minute.

The trust had also been stung by a series of letters sent to the Countryside Agency alleging that it was acting in secrecy.

Mr Ratcliffe said an information board had been put up in the village at the site to explain the project, a public meeting had been held which overwhelmingly backed the venture, and plenty of information had been issued via the media.

Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer has been called in to help save the scheme and chaired a meeting of local interested parties, including officers and cabinet members from the county and district councils.

"I understand they are doing what they can to find a solution and as urgently as they can and I am waiting to hear," said Mr Ratcliffe.

"We have battled for years to stop that land being developed – building on it will not be good for the Ferry, it is not the right thing for this area."

As well as providing an amenity, a possible camping site for sailing event competitors or educational trips, and a buffer between the commercial part of the Ferry and countryside, the trust believes the creation of the green will bring greater use of the coastal foot and cycle paths and help sustain the increasing use of the ferry to and from Bawdsey.

The landowners the Felixstowe Ferry has permission to build a holiday village of chalets on the land opposite Felixstowe Ferry Sailing Club on the Ferry Cafe side of the Ferry Boat Inn.

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