Nature reserve auction lot withdrawn at last minute

The Mortimer Terrace Nature Reserve. Picture: Sam Volpe

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

The auction lot to sell a protected nature reserve in Gospel Oak has been dramatically withdrawn at the 11th hour.

Mortimer Terrace Nature Reserve was listed for auction on Thursday (February 10) but just before 11am, after selling lot 15, the caller at London Auction House told the livestream that Lot 29 had been withdrawn. 

Telling the audience "Lot 29 has been withdrawn", he added he didn't want to keep anybody listening in waiting.

Camden Council has been in talks with the owner, Mark Hamburger, about purchasing the property.

Supporters gather to save Mortimer Terrace Nature Reserve 21.01.22. Pictured at the gate, from left

Supporters gather at the gate to save Mortimer Terrace Nature Reserve. From left Cllr Jenny Mulholland, Emily O'Mara, Cllr Anna Wright and reserve founders Jeanne Pendrill and Terry Reynolds - Credit: Polly Hancock

Cllrs Anna Wright and Sian Berry got on board with the Save Mortimer Terrace Nature Reserve (SMTNR) and were able to secure some funds.

Emily O'Mara, of SMTNR, said: "The Camden property buying team have been calling me. There have been so many false starts. We have the site then we don't. The property buying team were on the point of signing."

The nature reserve, registered as an asset of community value (ACV) since 2016, was  listed for auction  for "£100,000 + guide price".

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Mr Hamburger attached a £18,000-a-year lease agreement signed in December by Paula Woodman, founder of Woodentots nursery.

Supporters gather to save Mortimer Terrace Nature Reserve 21.01.22. Pictured front reserve founders

Mortimer Terrace Nature Reserve founders Terry Reynolds and Jeanne Pendrill who founded the reserve in 1987 - Credit: Polly Hancock

As well as the council's interest, SMTNR launched a fundraising campaign to buy the site, 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, SMNTR commissioned a surveyor to value the land who said it was worth £25,000 because of conditions protecting it from development.

Cllr Wright said after the auction: "It's disappointing because we thought the purchase had been agreed and disappointing it has been made more complicated by the owner moving the goal posts.

"I remain hopeful that we'll be able to secure it for the community but we're not celebrating yet."

A Camden Council spokesperson said: “The council is in discussions with the owner of Mortimer Terrace Nature Reserve and we are committed to ensuring that the sites status as an open space and asset of community value is protected.”

Mr Hamburger has been contacted.