Councils, National Parks and other bodies are putting much-loved parks, green spaces and woodland up for sale on the open market as a way to generate revenue.
Getting your woodland registered as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) is an important step towards being able to take ownership of woodland.
Community woodland assets up for sale
With ever tighter budgets, many public bodies are under pressure to make cuts to what are seen as ‘non-essential’ revenue costs, including countryside services. This opens up the question of how they can fund or resource the management of woodlands and other sites.
As a last resort, many public bodies have taken the decision of putting their parks, green spaces and woodlands up for sale to generate revenue and protect services.
High profile sell-off
The planned sell-off of seven well known beauty spot properties by the Lake District National Park Authority received national press coverage. This included the attempted sale of Yewbarrow Woods. As part of the Longsleddale Woods, and a haven for wildlife with extensive ground flora, it was priced between £110,000 to £130,000.
To slow the sales, local communities applied for three of the seven properties to be designated Community Assets . But two properties, Lady Wood near Grasmere and Long Bridge near Keswick, have been sold.
With the aims of caring for it and potentially creating public access, a community group is establishing whether there is interest for a group of people to take on a custodial role for Yewbarrow Woods.
The National Park currently continues to try to find a buyer for the woods, but if this proves unsuccessful they may wish to consider a proposal from a community group as a way forwards.
Community asset transfer
When it comes to looking after woodland, nothing beats the passion of local people. There’s a clear role for Community Woodland groups to take on woodland sites and ensure they are well used and managed.
A way forward for some valued woodlands can be for groups to look at Community Asset Transfer.
This involves the transfer of ownership and/or management of land to a community based organisation or group (such as a charity or community interest company) at less than market value for local social, economic or environmental benefit.
List your assets
As in the Lake District example, it’s possible to plan ahead by identifying key land that’s of benefit to the community and local people and apply for it to be listed as an ACV.
Parish councils or local community groups can nominate both privately and publicly owned assets which meet the definition of community value. If an asset is listed and then comes up for sale, the right will give the communities that want it six months to put together a bid to buy it.
This gives communities an increased chance to take on the management of a much loved area. You can find a list of ACVs on your local council’s website, usually with information on how to apply to list new ones.
Register your woodland
Getting your woodland registered as an ACV is an important step towards a community being able to take ownership of woodland. There are an increasing number of woodlands now listed across the country.
A good example in the news last year included Scrubbs Wood and Park Wood at Chiswell Green in Hertfordshire which both maintained their ACV listing despite an appeal by the landowners to review them.
Advice and support
For more advice, there are some great toolkits available at My Community.
Or, for overall advice on making land available for your community is available, check out the Community Land Advisory Service.
Help the Network
If you’re a group who has experience of listing assets, asset transfer then we’d love to hear your views.
There also a whole range of useful information for community woodland groups setting up and buying or leasing woodland in our advice section, as well as listings of woodland available in the Seeking and offering woodland part of the forum.
Paul Mosley is the Community Woodland Officer of the Woodland Trust.