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THE future of a wildlife oasis hangs in the balance once again after it was put up for sale.

Stoke Common, a 10-acre stretch of woodland off Havant Road, Hayling Island, is being offered for sale through estate agents DM Nesbit, with guide price of £200,000 to £250,000.

Residents are now rallying round to save the woods, even though it is unlikely any major development would ever happen.

The site features owls and several rare bird species.

It is currently owned by GK Rickards (Investments) Ltd, which bought the land at an auction in 2010 for £120,000.

The land was put up for sale by two charities which owned it at the time – the Portsmouth Deaf Association and the Home of Comfort, a nursing home in Southsea.

Residents managed to raise £30,000 towards the cost of buying the common and Hampshire County Council was ready to add up to £80,000 on top of that.

But they were pipped to the post by the private investor, who is represented by Hayling resident Kevin Field.

Asked why his client had decided to sell, Mr Field said: ‘He has just changed his opinion.

‘There’s no definite plan at the moment – it’s a matter of seeing what the market says.’

Andy Lenaghan, a Hayling councillor on Havant Borough Council, said the sale was perhaps a good sign as it could mean any potential development opportunities at the woods have been exhausted.

He told The News: ‘I would suggest it’s a good sign.

‘I would like to see it remain a natural environment.

‘I certainly would not want to see it turned into a picnic site. It would become a place for litter.’

He added: ‘Funding avenues have not really been explored.

‘We need to look at possible sources of grants or help from the local authorities.

‘I don’t think the borough council has got that sort of funding. That’s an area we all need to work on together.’

Officials at the county council said if it was approached for funds to buy the land by a community group, ‘the matter would be considered carefully’.

County councillor Frank Pearce said: ‘I will be approaching the new leader, Cllr Roy Perry, about it.’