‘Rare’ Suffolk woodland sale ‘offers range of possibilities’

Amenity woodland at Sproughton, on the edge of Ipswich, is up for sales through Savills Picture: KE

Amenity woodland at Sproughton, on the edge of Ipswich, is up for sales through Savills Picture: KEVIN SNELL/FLYIBOT - Credit: Archant

A ‘delightful’ area of ancient woodland on the edge of Ipswich is being offered up for sale, without a guide price.

Hazel Wood is a 5.71ha single parcel of land on the edge of the village of Sproughton, to the west of the town.

The plot, which is separated from the main village by farmland and the A14, is being offered freehold through agents Savills, and by private treaty.

Its sale coincides with a Savills report, entitled Forestry Spotlight, which found demand for UK forests at unprecedented levels, with the market constrained by lack of supply.

MORE – Brexit: What are best and worst things farmers can do this year?It showed that woodland sales peaked in 2015 when a large acreage was sold before falling back in 2016.

The mixed broadleaf, amenity woodland near Ipswich includes a diverse mix of species, including oak, willow, beech, sycamore and horse chestnut. It is classified as Ancient Woodland and is understood to have been managed in accordance with the designation.

The woodland is not subject to any woodland grant schemes.

Will Hargreaves, who is leading the sale on behalf of Savills Ipswich, said: “Hazel Wood is a delightful area of woodland on the edge of Ipswich that includes a diverse range of species including oak, willow, beech, sycamore and horse chestnut.

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“Although plots of this type have become more common in the last year or so it is still a relatively rare occurrence - particularly as it is so close to an urban population.

“It could be that someone simply wants to buy it because they want their own piece of English countryside to enjoy, while others may decide to open it up as a community asset. Given its proximity to Ipswich there could also be potential to start some type of enterprise, subject to the correct planning consent, while certain companies or organisations may want to plant trees and manage woodland as a way to meet their environmental responsibilities and help offset their carbon emissions. There’s a range of possibilities.”

Mr Hargreaves said the government’s proposed Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) could also present an interesting longer term opportunity.

“We’re obviously not 100% sure how everything will work out but it looks likely that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) will offer financial support to farmers and landowners based on what they can deliver for the environment rather than as a means of purely protecting income,” he said.

“As a result management of natural assets and how they can be used to benefit local communities will become increasing important - so this could be an opportunity to get ahead of the game and start planning for the future.”

Savills’ recent Forestry Spotlight research found the average values for woodland and forestry rose in 2018, continuing a trend that began in the early 2000s.

During 2018 the UK investment forestry market traded £118m of property, with average values up around 10.5% compared to 2017. The average hectare of softwood is now worth just over £8,000. A pound invested 20 years ago is now worth £5.05, it found.

“Demand for UK forests continues at unprecedented levels, but the market remains constrained by lack of supply and we believe this is unlikely to change over the medium term,” the report says.

Rising prices for forestry has been driven by rising demand for wood, long rotation lengths, diversification into tangible assets and increasing recognition of the environmental benefits of woodlands, it said.

“However, for some time now a few voices in the industry have been expressing concern over the sustainability of these price rises and indeed, whether an asset bubble is forming,” it warned.

Currently UK forests and woodlands cover 13% (3.2m ha) of the UK total area and contain around 150m tonnes of carbon in the trees (biomass) and a further 640m tonnes in the soil. In the past three decades, and especially in the past decade new tree planting has fallen, the study found.

“According to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) at current levels (3.2m ha) the carbon sink from forests and woodlands will be half of what it is now by 2050 due to ageing forest and lack of planting, as trees are unable to sequester more carbon on reaching an equilibrium,” it said.