Ambitious plans to transfer the council-owned Raincliffe Wood to the community have taken a major step forward this week after a host of key partners backed the move.
Representatives from organisations including the Woodland Trust, Natural England and the Forestry Commission, met with the group behind the scheme in an effort to get things moving.
The chairman of Raincliffe Wood Enterprise, John Bradley, hailed the meeting as a huge success and said the committee hoped to start running the wood as a social enterprise by 2014.
He said: “It was about bringing on board potential partners and giving them chance to have an early input on the different ways it can be taken forward. For example, Hilary Saunders from the North York Moors National Park planning department attended to discuss planning issues. Everyone was completely supportive. It was massively successful and we are now able to go forward.”
The ambitious proposals are being developed as part of Scarborough Council’s Community Asset Transfer Plan. The scheme covers the transfer of land and buildings from the council to voluntary, community organisations or parish councils. The authority wants to encourage and support groups who might have innovative ideas about how buildings and land can be better used to provide more benefits to local people.
Members of the Raincliffe steering group are hoping the woodland could be run as a not-for-profit social enterprise. The project could involve the creation of educational facilities, a visitor centre and a cafe.
Mr Bradley said: “A feasibility study is being written as we speak. That is due back to the council by the end of May. From there we are looking at a business plan. Realistically I would say we are hoping to have everything in place by the beginning of next year.”
Scheme vital for wood’s future
Handing over Raincliffe Wood to the community is vital in preserving the future of the woodland, says the chairman of the steering group behind the scheme.
John Bradley said the prject could create jobs, facilities and educational opportunities in the woodland, helping it to reach its full potential.
He said: “It’s very important for the community. They have a big chance here. It’s a community-owned woodland and they will have a lot of say in what’s going on here.
“It’s a unique opportunity. At the end of the day Raincliffe is in dire need of being regenerated. If we don’t do something about it shortly we won’t have a Raincliffe Wood.
“We now have to sit down and go through the points made at the meeting and start looking at who we want to bring in as potential partners and so on.”