A Staffordshire businessman has spent more than £1 million buying 127 acres of land – to stop developers building houses on the site.
Jonathan James, who hails from Stoke-on-Trent, has bought land known as Fenton Fields from Stoke-on-Trent Regeneration – a partnership between St Modwen Homes and Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
Mechanical engineering magnate Jonathan bought the land in partnership with his daughter and business partner.
Now he has enlisted the help of dozens of volunteers to improve and maintain the land which has previously been earmarked for housing. Part of the site is currently used by horse owners and for electronic masts.
Jonathan told StokeonTrentLive : “It has become uneconomical to turn it into a housing estate so all I have done is purchased it from the regeneration company so we can keep it the same. It’s as simple as that.
“We need to tidy it up to make it a little better. It has had nothing, no money spent on it in the last 20 years.
“Hopefully over time we’ll improve that. It will cost in excess of £1 million.”
He added: “Most of the reaction from locals has been positive, but of course there are some people who are very dubious about what they see. Don’t get me wrong but things have got to change a little bit.
“It does make some money and obviously the young ladies that have the horses, they pay some money and the masts, but we have got to do a few things along the way to add a little bit of value. We need to tidy it up and rent a little bit more out.”
Local resident and activist Cheryl Owen has welcomed the plans.
She said: “We are delighted that we have been able to secure the land for the future and that we are not going to have a huge housing development that we haven’t got any say on.
“We need to carry on protecting it and encourage more. We lost all ground nesting birds quite a few years ago and we want to try to encourage those back.”