THE future care of Birds’ Marsh Wood is still uncertain as housing development proceeds on the fields between the wood and the north of Chippenham.

The new Birds’ Marsh View development extends between the Malmesbury Road roundabout and the B4069, where a northern link road will be constructed, with up to 750 homes to be built by a number of developers under the North Chippenham Consortium brand. 
Although the wood is safe, its future management has still not been decided.

Originally, the plans included a takeover by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust but this plan fell through when the Friends of Birds’ Marsh applied for and gained Village Green status for the wood. But the trust has not ruled out future involvement.

A spokesman said: “Before Wiltshire Wildlife Trust is able to confirm any involvement in the proposed management of Birds Marsh wood, Wiltshire Council must come forward with a proposal for how to manage the woodland and we will review it.

"Management of the wood is a complex proposition and legally any activity at this stage could potentially constitute a criminal offence. So before we take any plans forward we would need to be assured that we are legally indemnified against any criminal action, and of course also that any works required would have sufficient resources allocated by Wiltshire Council.”

A woodland management plan created by Ecology Solutions Ltd, points out that due to a lack of formal management, areas of the wood have become dominated by cherry laurel, rhododendron, bracken and regenerating sycamore saplings, reducing its overall ecological value.
A Wiltshire Council spokesman said: “As set out in the planning agreement that’s in place, when the 450th home is built on this site the wood will transfer to the council or our nominee. This milestone has not been reached yet, but when we near this we will look at the options available to us and speak to any appropriate party who wishes to manage and maintain this important site for the long term.” 
Stephen Hunt, author of Birds’ Marsh, Chippenham: An Unfinished Story, and a member of the Friends, said: “It’s disappointing to hear that the destructive building of housing estates is going ahead on Birds’ Marsh fields.

"We are losing a habitat that combines needed agricultural land with venerable and wildlife-rich hedgerows and meadows, for a misconceived commuter-belt development by the M4.

"The remaining wooded area will be impoverished, since the species that live there will no longer be able to access the area above Hill Corner Road upon which they rely for foraging and predating.    I suspect that only the council would have the staff power and resources to maintain the surviving wood. 
“Non-profit organisations that come to mind are Woodland Trust, Friends of the Earth or the Conservation Volunteers.”