A wildlife group has ditched a plan to create Saffron Walden's first public nature reserve.

Walden Countryside hoped to take on the management of Limefield Pit Nature Reserve, a former chalk quarry near Little Walden Road owned by Essex Wildlife Trust (EWT).

But Walden Countryside's directors claim they have seen no agreement documents from EWT and have "abandoned" negotiations to take over the site.

EWT responded saying that the takeover process "cannot be rushed".

In a collective statement, Walden Countryside's directors said: "Walden Countryside has confirmed its decision to withdraw its offer of working with the Essex Wildlife Trust on the management of Saffron Walden's only nature reserve."

They said they are working to return a £4,000 grant given to them by the Essex Community Initiative Fund to kick-start the project.

Limefield Pit is a private EWT reserve which Walden Countryside says is geologically significant.

A former quarry, it features an exposed chalk cliff and soil which lends itself to wildflower-rich grassland which was disturbed by fly-tipping when houses were built in the area.

Peter Savic, another Walden Countryside director, said: "We had been heartened by the number of people who had indicated a willingness to help with the project.

"I can only hope that EWT will be able to organise the necessary management of the reserve itself."

An EWT spokesperson said: "Limefield Pit suffered fly tipping problems and health and safety concerns, therefore when the Trust took over the management, a fence was erected to protect the site from vandalism or human disturbance.

"Wildlife has not suffered as a consequence of this delay in reviewing Walden Countryside’s proposal.

"All significant decisions are reviewed by the Trust’s Senior Leadership Team and the Board of Trustees, with all decisions then following the correct legal processes, which cannot be rushed."

The project received support from town councillors when it was proposed in August 2020.

A Saffron Walden Town Council spokesperson said: "It is disappointing that an agreement has not been reached.

"We remain optimistic that the site can be managed in the future by an appropriate body."