A PETITION to stop contractors from building on woodland in Lower Earley has reached more than 1,000 signatures after builders fenced off areas of the green space.

Fencing on the Swallows Field woodland site was put up on December 9, and has caused controversy among residents, as the site (although privately owned, previously by the University of Reading) was left open to the public to access.

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Resident concerns have also arisen due to previous cutting down of trees by the new owner of the land, Lower Earley Properties LTD, a subsidiary to large-scale property developers Jansons Property, which has raised debate between the land owners and residents over whether this has directly impacted local wildlife.

Earley Town Councillor Andrew Mickleburgh said: "Sadly, contractors completed a fence that now blocks public access from Bassett Close.

"In response to concerns that Clive Jones and I raised, the new owners appear to have erected the fence well inside their own boundary to avoid encroachment on WBC land.

"We saw no new evidence of any more trees being harmed, which is vital as the whole site is now subject to a tree preservation order.

"Huge thanks to those who have so far responded to our request to people who have used the meadows for more than 20 years.

"We are gathering evidence that will be used to apply for retrospective public rights of way.

"Thanks also to the more than 1150 people who have so far signed the petition. Lots more is happening and we will keep you informed via social media."

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Prior to the completion of the fencing, a spokesman for Jansons Property said: “We recently carried out routine landscape maintenance work at the site, which confirmed the presence of a number of manholes relating to a storm drain.

"One of the manhole covers is broken and we are looking into this as a priority to ensure it does not impact the storm drain.

“The broken drain represent a significant safety hazard to anyone accessing the site.

"Following a request from Cllr Andrew Mickleburgh, we are therefore erecting perimeter fencing to secure the site and prevent any unauthorised access.

"We would like to reiterate that this is private land and there is no Public Right of Way through the site.”

To sign the petition, visit petitions.net/save_our_green_spaces_-_land_between_bassett_close_and_lower_earley_way_in_wokingham_borough_berkshire?.