A community group in Derbyshire is facing the possible loss of a community woodland they have been actively maintaining for the last twelve years.
Waingrove Community Association came into being in 1984 when a local school (Waingrove Village School) was closed. The old school buildings still belong to the local authority but are run by local people as a very traditional community centre, providing craft classes, playgroups etc.
For the last twelve years, the Community Association has leased Waingrove Community Woodland from the landowners, Hansons Building Products, and has set up it`s own charitable wing, Waingroves Community Woodland Trust to maintain and manage the wood, relying on a combination of local volunteers and support organisations such as Groundwork Derbyshire. Activities have included tree-felling and planting, creating paths, building fences and organising cultural events.
The wood covers the area previously occupied by Waingroves Colliery and some adjacent land. The mine ceased to function during the 1920s, and it appears the wood formed naturally over a period of time. However, one area of the wood lies to the south of the former pit and is rather older, containing a hedgerow believed to be 150 - 200 years old. A more detailed description can be found at http://gdd.org.uk/environment/waingroves.html .
It now seems that Hansons are offering the wood for sale, as part of a package that includes adjacent properties Waingroves Brick Yard, Coppice Farm and land surrounding the farm. The farm is currently advertised as being suitable for residential development. Waingroves Woodland and Strelley Wood are being offered at £5,000 per acre, giving a total of £60,000.
Community Association chair John Stamp has been careful to stress that "Hansons are not undertaking anything improper" but stresses that "there does seem to be...a disregard...for local communities in that woodland trustees had been verbally and in writing assured of the security of community". In an interview with the Derby Telegraph/Ripley Heanor and Alfreton Express, he was perhaps a litte more open about his true feelings, describing the decision to sell as "a smack in the face for the community", particularly since the first indication given to residents that the lease would not be renewed was the appearance of a notice telling them to keep out !
Residents are trying to raise funds to buy the woods outright, which would certainly seem the best solution. Some offers of financial support have been forthcoming, and there are hopes that Hansons will be prepared to negotiate.
The Community group have been very effective in their use of media and the issue has been covered by numerous local newspapers and the BBC, though the quality of reporting by the newspaper groups is variable. A letter from the estimable Mr Stamp appeared in Buxton Today / The Buxton Advertiser and can be found on their site (`Worries Over Land Sales` 27 July 2010 at http://www.buxtonadvertiser.co.uk/ ) and an unsigned article `Residents Pledge £20k to Rescue Woods` can be found at http://www.thisisderbyshire.co.uk/ .
The Community Association/Woodland Trust appear to have no online presence, but the community centre is at http://www.waingrovescommunitycentre.co.uk/ .