Shaftesbury Council’s Wilderness Bid Was Not Enough – Despite Cash Boost From Locals

Shaftesbury Town Council’s community-backed bid for ‘The Wilderness’ has been unsuccessful at auction this afternoon.

The 8.3-acre plot, which runs at the top of French Mill Lane and adjacent to Hawkesdene Lane, was offered with a £60,000 guide price. The land was sold for £100,000 today.

Residents were keen to buy the green space for the community and many locals wanted it kept just as it is. Shaftesbury Town Clerk Claire Commons attended the auction in Sherborne, with a professional advisor from Woolley & Wallis who bid on the Council’s behalf.

Claire is disappointed. “A bit flat, if I am honest. I was hopeful and expectant that we would be successful and maybe that is a little naive and a little arrogant. I’m a little disappointed at the moment,” said Mrs Commons. Claire says that The Wilderness was sold in around three minutes of bidding. “There was a lot of interest. I lost track of how many people were bidding for it but the bids were going fast.”

Around a dozen residents travelled to watch the sale. Locals have great affection for this land, which includes an historic quarry that once provided stone to build the town. There’s also ancient woodland.

Claire says there was a moment when she thought that the Town Council might be successful. “It was looking hopeful but then the bidding slowed down, just after the point where we were able to go, and that was nail biting. But then the bids flew again and it was very definitely out of the Council’s reach.”

Shaftesbury Town Council was able to spend up to £72,000 on the bid. Additional money was set aside for professional costs and legal fees on top of that. “We were astounded to be able to get input from the community, who are able to donate an additional £17,000 to top up the bid that the Town Council was putting in,” said Claire.

The Council’s final bid was £89,000. Claire says she doesn’t know who made the successful bid at this moment. She is uncertain whether it was a private individual or a corporate purchaser because there were agents in the room acting on behalf of their clients.

Many locals are concerned that The Wilderness could be subject to development. Vendor, Jim Clark, assured ThisIsAlfred that he would include a clause preventing building on the site in his sale agreement. Claire says that Mr Clark honoured his promise.

“The land had covenants applied to it, even to the extent that if the Town Council had been successful and wanted to do anything to improve it, there were strict rules applying, which could limit what could be done. No buildings can be erected. It can’t be built on for private dwellings, for example,” said Claire. “There is a public footpath running down the length of the area so that is also protected. My two big takeaways are that the land is still publicly accessible because the path is there and the community support for this area is so outstanding, I think people should continue to go out and enjoy the area.”

The Wilderness was sold separately to an adjacent, larger area of grass. Plot A had been offered with a guide price of a £120,000. “That was a slower one to get off the blocks. They dropped the starting price and it went for £115,000,” Claire said.