A BEAUTY spot in Maldon has been saved from vanishing under concrete after united residents launched a £300,000 fundraiser.

Residents were shocked to see advertisements offering land at Mill Lane for sale as an industrial estate, what they said is the only undeveloped piece of land in the town between the canal and the river.

The land just outside the Tesco site and next to the Blackwater River and Chelmer Navigation is popular with walkers, cyclists and wildlife watchers.

It was put up for sale in 2020 with a £250,000 price-tag and marketed as a “strategic business location”.

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A crowdfunding page – Save the Nature Reserve from Development – was set up by Maldon resident Ian Harden.

But it did not look hopeful for Ian and his pals as despite generous donations, it seemed unlikely the money would come anywhere near the asking price.

Ian says information obtained from Freedom of Information requests ultimately confirmed a 1989 planning agreement with Maldon District Council and Essex County Council was meant to have protected the land from development.

Therefore, residents got together and began negotiations with site owner Tesco, who agreed to lease it to a not-for-profit community interest company for a peppercorn rent.

Those negotiations reached fruition this week with the issue of a 100-year lease to the Chelmer Blackwater Reserve CIC (CBR).

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The group’s intention is to bring the site back into conservation management, keeping it “primarily uncultivated” but to create paths to enable the public to access and enjoy the site while avoiding the key habitat and breeding areas.

The lease also makes provision for a canoe and paddleboard facility on the area by the canal footbridge next to Tesco, if a club or similar organisation is interested.

All members of the public are invited to support the project.

Anybody interested can become a shareholder of CBR for £5 and Ian says other donations are welcome.

People are also needed to help with the work on the reserve, after the first working party met up at the weekend.

For more information on the project go to chelmerblackwatercic.uk.