Popular wood in Middleton to change hands

C121539-1 Bog Nov15 Wood  phot  kate''Graham Diggens who is concerned at the handover of Worm's Wood to Arun District Council.C121539-1
C121539-1 Bog Nov15 Wood phot kate''Graham Diggens who is concerned at the handover of Worm's Wood to Arun District Council.C121539-1

Fears have been expressed about the future of a popular open space in Middleton.

Worm’s Wood is to be transferred to Arun District Council next March.

The 40-acre site was planted to celebrate the millennium and overseen by the Woodland Trust on council land.

But the charity has decided to hand over the running of the wood with some 30,000 trees to the council.

Middleton man Graham Diggens said the move had caused some alarm for himself and his wife.

“We love the woodland. It’s within walking distance for both me and my wife, now we are retired. It’s a nice little walk around the wood and we have watched it develop.

“We thought it would be nice, as we get older, to enjoy it,” he said. “To my mind, maybe it’s under threat now it’s going to be controlled by Arun. The council don’t seem to like open spaces.”

The wood stretches between Larksfield Recreation Ground on the Felpham and Middleton boundary to the A259 Worms Lane.

The Woodland Trust launched the project as part of a nationwide initiative to plant mainly native trees for the start of this century.

The trust agreed a 99-year lease with Arun for the wood on July 8, 1999. But it wants to surrender the lease and hand over all management responsibility for the site.

The move has been agreed by Arun’s cabinet member for environmental services, Cllr Paul Dendle, to take effect next March 31.

Nick Sherriff, the trust’s property manager, said: “We have successfully created a thriving woodland with Arun over the past 13 years, which is clearly well-loved and used.

“As Worm’s Wood is adjacent to Larksfield Recreation Ground, which is already managed by the council’s greenspace service, we felt a proposal to hand back the site was common sense. Suitable safeguards are in place to ensure the site remains as woodland open to the public.

“We are confident that people locally will notice absolutely no difference when visiting the wood.”

An Arun spokeswoman said: “The council will continue to manage the site in accordance with the existing management plan.”

The focus would be to keep informal public access and a native broadleaved high forest, she added.