SALE: Mystery as buyer seals Peakirk deal

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FOR generations, bird-lovers came to Peterborough to wonder at the variety of wildfowl at one of the city's top tourist attractions.

FOR generations, bird-lovers came to Peterborough to wonder at the variety of wildfowl at one of the city's top tourist attractions.But now mystery surrounds the new owner of the 10-acre Peakirk waterfowl site.

The deal, which has been finalised after a year of negotiations, also includes 25 acres of surrounding wetland.

The site was closed in December 2001 by the East of England Agricultural Society, which had leased it from the Slimbridge Wetland and Wildfowl Trust for a decade, but could no longer support it.

Today, Robin Clarke, of city lawyers Smiths Gore, which handled the sale, confirmed it had been bought but refused to reveal the identity of the new owner.

He said: "They (the buyer) have been interested from the beginning.

"We've had a variety of inquiries from people with a number of different uses in mind."

When the site was closed, staff were spotted rounding up the birds and transporting them to the trust's nine other sites across the country, which funds from the sale will support.

But residents have seen some of the varieties of wildfowl return to the gardens since then, and say birdwatchers still turn up at the gates to watch them.

Mr Clarke would not say how much the land had been bought for, but Reinhard Biehler, the owner of Baytree Nurseries, in Spalding, and a forerunner in the bidding process, had been prepared to pay 250,000 before pulling out of negotiations.

However, he said the buyer has promised to be "sympathetic" to its history as a nature reserve.

Today, one supporter of the wildfowl site, Janet Quinn (59), of St Benedicts Close, Glinton, said: "I'm glad someone's bought it. But what are they going to do with it? That's what I want to know.

"Are they going to open it as a centre again? Or will they keep it for their own private use? It's so important to Peakirk, because this end of the city really has nothing else."

Trust promised to find a 'sympathetic' deal for nature site

WHEN it pulled out of Peakirk, Slimbridge Wetland and Wildfowl Trust promised residents it would look for a sympathetic buyer.

In July 2002, after a decision was made to sell the land, spokeswoman Jo Sampson said: "After examining all the options, we have reluctantly reached the conclusion that continuing the site as a visitor centre is not a viable option.

"The council has agreed the trust is not in a position to take on further development of the site.

"But we will encourage a sympathetic use. Preferably it will still be used as an environment garden."