New research – community access to Welsh Government Woodland Estate

Posted on February 13, 2014 by

Community woodland groups have been steadily on the increase in Wales over the last decade. Successful groups have demonstrated that they can manage woodlands and generate multiple benefits for their local community. There are many groups attempting to, or running on Welsh Government Woodland Estate.

Both the Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) are committed to ensuring that communities and social enterprises can gain access to and benefit from the national woodland estate. The WaY programme has been running since 2011 to ‘open the way’ for communities to make the most of our national resource.

Recently LlyG, in collaboration with NRW, embarked on a small scale research project to understand how WaY has worked to date. Jane Gronow & Zena Wilmot report –

Aims of collaborative research

An overview appraisal of WaY in 2013 has shown that there has been a healthy number of increasing ‘permissions’ –  access for events and activities – since the start of the programme, but very few new longer-term projects, such as community woodlands which may involve ‘management agreements’, ‘lease’ or even woodland purchase.

In response Llais y Goedwig is carrying out research with Natural Resources Wales to better understand this situation. In particular this is to identify any gaps or blockages that make it difficult for community groups to make the most of the opportunities provided by WaY.

The main objectives of the project are –

  • To understand the process by which communities can currently find out about opportunities and gain access to the Welsh Government Woodland Estate through WaY, in particular through management agreements, sale and leases for long term projects.
  • To ‘unpick’ what is happening at the different levels of community involvement in Welsh woodlands (permission, management agreement, lease & sale).
  • To look at international examples of programmes designed to ensure community access to national forest estates.
  • To work with all parties to understand the current situation and inform future development.

Interested in taking part, or commenting?

LlyG welcomes input from any group based or aspiring to use Welsh Government Woodland Estate for longer term projects. Contact Rosie Strang, Network Coordinator rosie.strang@llaisygoedwig.org.uk.

Report launch

The research to date has included over 30 interviews with community woodland groups and NRW local area managers, as well as project planning and review of findings to inform an evidence-based report and ‘discussion’ note, due out in early March.

The report findings will be formally presented and discussed with the report team and other community woodland groups at the LlyG Gathering 11th/12th April in North Wales.

 

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