Crowdfunder launched to buy Mortimer Terrace Nature Reserve
- Credit: Polly Hancock
A fundraising campaign has been launched to save a protected nature reserve in Gospel Oak as it goes under the hammer for a third time.
The Save Mortimer Terrace Nature Reserve community has received backing from Highgate councillors Anna Wright and Sian Berry who are seeking cross-party support to help them buy the land.
The nature reserve, registered as an asset of community value (ACV) since 2016, is listed for auction on February 10 by London Auction House for "£100,000 + guide price".
Owner Mark Hamburger has attached a £18,000 a year lease agreement signed in December. Paula Woodman, of Woodentots nursery, has signed the lease but is not required to make a formal decision on accepting the terms until September.
The community has relaunched a crowdfunding campaign to buy the land, hoping to retain it for the community "in perpetuity" .
The site failed to sell at auction in October, when the community's £150,000 bid was declined, some six months after Mr Hamburger bought the land.
In March 2021 Save MNTR commissioned a surveyor to value the land who said it was worth £25,000 because of conditions protecting it from development.
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The community has received backing from councillors Wright and Berry, who say they are determined to get extra funding to help residents buy the land.
They have so far secured £10,000 of community levy money gained from developments and are seeking cross party support from other Camden councillors.
Cllr Wright (Lab) said: "I am totally committed to making sure that we secure this green space as an asset for the Camden community in perpetuity.
"The private owners have played some pretty murky tactics in trying to block the community from acquiring it and now increase the asking price.
"Camden's powers to intervene here are very limited because it is private land for private sale but I'm keen to do anything we possibly can to create a shared cross party cross councillor alliance to find additional money we can gift to the community to help this ambition to buy it."
A trustee of the reserve, Cllr Berry (Green) said: "It's great to have councillors across different parties working together with the trustees to put funding together.
Emily O'Mara of Save the MTNR welcomed the support. She said the site would be a "financial burden" for any owner or leaseholder as there are no facilities, no running water and covenants protecting the land from building any school or shed.
"The space has to be secured and safeguarded for everybody, long term, not just for a couple of months for a group of people," she said.
"Anna Wright has said she's on the war path now to really help us raise this money.
"If she's able to pull this out of the bag and our funders in the wings who have been holding on to some generous donations, they're still there, if they give in to that same pot maybe we'll be in a position to buy the site.
"Anna's determined the only way we'll put this whole issue to bed is to buy the site so we've got to buy it. Securing this site is a win for everyone."
Cllr Danny Beales, cabinet member for investing in communities, culture and an inclusive economy said the council is "committed to working with the community to ensure access to this important local space".
"Mortimer Terrace nature reserve has been well used by the community for over 30 years and it remains listed as an asset of community value (ACV) recognising its importance and value to the community," he said.
"Being an ACV means that there is a legal responsibility that the owner must give us notice if they wish to sell the site.
"The powers however do not allow Camden to prevent a sale or give the community a right to own the space. This is one of the flaws with the national system."
He said there are "very strong protections in place against any development".
“Despite the limits to our powers regarding ACVs, the site is strongly protected in our local planning policies through its designation as an open space and a site of importance for nature conservation, as well being designated as a local green space in the Dartmouth Park Neighbourhood Plan.”
The land's owner has been approached for comment.
To donate, visit www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/save-mortimer-terrace-nature-reserve-2