Mortimer Terrace Nature Reserve: Locks changed on community wildlife haven as owners look to sell up

Campaigners outside of the locked gate to the Mortimer Terrace Nature Reserve. Picture: Sam Volpe

Campaigners outside of the locked gate to the Mortimer Terrace Nature Reserve. Picture: Sam Volpe - Credit: Archant

Landowners have changed the locks on a much-loved Dartmouth Park nature reserve and plan to sell the plot – leaving the volunteers who’ve looked after it for 30 years crestfallen.

The Mortimer Terrace Nature Reserve. Picture: Sam Volpe

The Mortimer Terrace Nature Reserve. Picture: Sam Volpe - Credit: Archant

On June 12, a member of the Fitzpatrick family - who own the the Mortimer Terrace Nature Reserve (also known as the Mark Fitzpatrick Nature Reserve) - appeared at the site and changed the locks, even as schoolchildren from the nearby Gospel Oak Primary were leaving.

The family firm Fitzpatrick Team Properties have put the plot of land up for sale. It borders the railway line and has been a buffer against pollution for a century. But now a sign declaring it "private land" has been fixed to one of the entrances. Volunteer Jeanne Pendrill had a tenancy at will on the site, but this has been terminated.

She has managed the site since helping save it from development in 1987.

She said it was a "very sad day" as she helped to carry tools out of the nature reserve.

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A man who told volunteers he was Sean Fitzpatrick unlocked the site at the weekend so volunteers could retrieve their garden equipment.

Campaigners recorded him speaking, and he explained he was acting as a liaison for the owner - who he said was Sue Fitzpatrick - and added they should email him about schools continuing to use the site.

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Jeanne told this newpaper: "We were expecting it, to be honest. Have been for about two years. We just weren't expecting things to happen so quickly.

"I was on the site with a school group when Sean came. He had no idea we were there, and I think it probably caught him off guard."

She added: "There's going to be a big fight."

The site has been designated as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) and is locally listed in the Dartmouth Park Neighbourhood Plan.

The original ACV listing expired in April. The trustees of the Friends of the Mortimer Terrace Nature Reserve (FotMTNR) applied to renew it in February but this has not yet been completed.

Cllr Sian Berry (Green, Highgate) is a trustee of the FotMTNR. She told the Ham&High: "I think there's hope. The owners are taking a chance and trying to sell while there's this gap. "There's so much clear protection for the site. It's not a development site."

Campaigners led by trustees Emily O'Mara and Jessica Jacobs have thus far held two demonstrations against the potential sale.

Sue Fitzpatrick declined to speak to the Ham&High, and Sean Fitzpatrick has not responded to our requests for comment.

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