Saturday, April 15, 2006

What Future for 'The Woodlands'?

The Woodlands, the wooded area on old quarries between Maze Hill and Vanbrugh Hill currently owned by BPT Woodlands Company is to benefit from £57,800 funding over the next 6 years from the developers of the Restell Close Nursing Homes site as a result of a Section 106 agreement between the developers and the Council. Following this long-delayed news, the Blackheath Preservation Trust are discussing with the Westcombe Society and others transferring ownership of the site to a separate and more locally based organisation. The Society has until mid-June to decide whether or not it has a serious interest in being part of this new organisation. The initial view of the Society’s Committee is that it should, but before making any commitment we must first take a view on the appropriate form of the organisation and the nature of the Society’s participation. This could be a very big commitment, and it will be a major topic for members at the Society’s AGM on 13 May 2006 at Mycenae House.

Since acquiring the site in 1980, the BPT has done only the minimum maintenance work to meet its public liability obligations. The new funding should provide for secure perimeter fencing and a more active approach to woodland management, as well as covering running costs (including insurance). Given the precipitous nature of parts of the site, a major issue for any new organisation will be that of access - and views have varied from locking the gate and throwing away the key, through various degrees of educational access, right the way through to its use for tennis courts and picnics! Both the level of woodland management and the extent of access will determine the need for additional funding (both during the first 6 years and beyond) and the ability to apply for such funding.

Because of the potential size of this project, the Society will be looking at possibilities of working in partnership with the Greenwich and Blackheath Societies, as well as seeking to involve the immediate neighbours of The Woodlands. The eventual organisation might take many forms – for example, it might be closely controlled by one or more of the three societies, or it may be that we simply facilitate the setting up of a completely separate and independent organisation. This might be some form of charitable trust, or a CIC (community interest company), a new type of limited company created in 2005 to facilitate social enterprise. There could also be an associated “Friends of The Woodlands”.

We need your views - so please offer your comments here, write to the Westcombe New - or (Society members) please come along to the AGM where there will be the opportunity to discuss the options.


RogerM said...

I think that this is something with which the Westcombe Society or at least the community as a whole should be involved. The danger is that if it does not play a part, then the Woodlands could be controlled or exploited by a narrow self-interested group. However, it could prove to be a very big commitment for the Society in terms of both time and possibly money and I have concerns about whether the Society could provide either of these.

Eeyore said...

I agree with rogerm that this will be a considerable commitment. However, it would be a pity to lose the opportunity of securing the site from developer intervention for future generations to enjoy, if only as a green backdrop to the Greenwich Peninsula.

Latest developments include a meeting having been held between the Chair of the Westcombe Society, Dick Allard and the Chair of the Greenwich Society, Tim Barnes.

An up-coming meeting on June 19th, 2006 with residents whose properties back on to the Westcombe Woodlands.