Great news from a community group in Northumberland! Our Project Development Manager, Philippa Borrill, has just received an update from the local group she has been working with.
The local community have worked hard and been successful in having the Dukeshouse Wood near Hexham registered as an ‘Asset of Community Value’ by the local planning authority. The woodland is currently on the open market, this designation will give the community the opportunity to pause the sale, giving them an additional 6 months to raise funds to buy the woodland.
Dukeshouse Wood team member Yvonne Conchie, said: “This not only gives us breathing space, but also allows us to apply to Social Investment Business.” Social Investment Business (SIB) are the brokers of Government funding made available to help purchase registered community assets.
Yvonne continues “There is now official acknowledgement of the wood’s civic amenity value – it’s not about money, but the huge value placed on it by all the people who use it.”
The tool was originally designed to protect assets such as pubs and village halls. This is the first example that we are aware of woodland being registered as an asset of community value, it is a very exciting move for local authorities to recognise just how important local woodlands are to the community.
Getting your woodland registered as an ‘Asset of Community Value’ is an important step towards a community being able to take ownership of a woodland.
The project in Hexham plans to turn Dukeshouse wood into improved amenity woodland with better access, facilities and opportunities for harvesting wood fuel. The origin of the word ‘Hexham’ are in the Saxon leatherworking industry and in the late Middle Ages right up to the 20th Century Hexham remained a very prosperous leatherworking town. Today there is only one master craftsman leather worker in the town and there are hopes to create a tannery in the woodlands (where original materials for tanning would have been sourced) to ensure the heritage and crafts of Hexham are not lost.
The community group in Hexham is now carrying out a survey, part and parcel of a wider community engagement exercise, to gather as much feedback as possible and would like to invite you to share your views by completing this short online survey. You can also follow the group on Facebook too.
We wish the Dukehouse Wood Group every success!
There is a website for people who want to know more about how to register assets of community value. Please do also get in touch with us; we would love to know how new tools like these brought in by the Localism Act are really working for woodland.
Finally, the Forestry Commission’s ‘Shared Assets’ team is building a picture of how many woodland social enterprises there are out there. The work has been commissioned by the FC for England only (Wales and Scotland to follow early 2014). If you are involved or you know of people who are, please take a moment to respond to this survey – closing date is November 19th.