Farmer shuts woodland over payment row

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A furious farmer has blocked access to his woodland after a protracted row with the Forestry Commission over unpaid grant money.

Over the last 15 years Stephen Peck has planted 100,000 trees on 80 acres of his pasture in Eggington, to convert it to a publicly accessible woodland.

Stephen Peck

Stephen Peck

In return for this the farmer has received a £9,000 annual stipend from the Forestry Commission, however last November Mr Peck failed to receive his final payment.

When he asked why, Mr Peck was told that he had failed to complete a form sent to him in spring 2015.

Mr Peck says that he never received the form and was denied the chance to fill in a replacement, meaning that the £9,000 grant payment is still outstanding.

In an attempt to get the Forestry Commission to reverse its decision, Mr Peck has now blocked public access to the woodland and hung a sign to divert walkers to the commission.

Mr Peck told the LBO: “This has become a bureaucratic nightmare that is completely unneccessary.

“They are not standing back and looking at the common sense...this money is rightfully due to me.

“If the money does not turn up then I will wash my hands of them completely.”

Mr Peck says that in 2011 he completed a form which is valid up until the end of his agreement with the Forestry Commission.

He added: “They are being ridiculous about it and breaking their contract, I believe.

“The payments included public access, I got fed up with the whole thing so decided to close it to bring the issue into the public eye.

“Hopefully they will contact the commission.”

In a statement the Forestry Commission said: “The FarmWoodland Premium Scheme agreement holder failed to meet one of the requirements of the scheme, which resulted in the 2015 grant payment being withheld.

“They are appealing this decision, which is their right and is set out in the 2015 grant payment being withheld.”