A FUTURE for the woodland called Herefordshire’s “heart” could lie with New Leaf.
The local not-for-profit co-operative behind the annual h.Energy week confirmed today (Monday) that it is backing a bid to take over Queenswood Country Park.
With that confirmation comes a major public consultation to test attitudes towards, and ideas for, any such takeover.
As revealed by the Hereford Times last week, iconic county sites such as Queenswood are up for grabs because Herefordshire Council cannot afford to keep them.
Talks over the future management of Queenswood and Bodenham Lakes nature reserve are already underway between the council and New Leaf.
Called the county’s heart by its supporters, Queenswood receives an average 450,000 visitors a year to its 170 acres of woodland.
New Leaf wants to create a community group that can run Queenswood and look at setting up an education centre to promote energy saving, carbon reduction and sustainability.
All without introducing parking charges, which is the council’s Plan B.
“We want to hear from as many people as possible, there is a lot of strong local feeling about Queenswood and this proposal will only be progressed if we can demonstrate active and ongoing support from the community,” said New Leaf director Rob Garner.
The council is due to meet this week with current Queenswood employees, along with representatives from the community group.
Formal negotiations between the community group and the council will begin at the end of the month.
Stan Gyford, who would be one of the directors of the community group if the project goes ahead, said the plan would see Queenswood kept as the “ fantastic community asset” it currently is.
“We are working closely with current users and interested parties to ensure that this will be the case. We are also consulting with key local organisations such as CPRE and the Woodland Trust,” he said.
The questionnaire can be accessed on line at http://us6.campaign-archive1.com/?u=2a1e7517c5401f6c31a730d6a&id=d87ac9f699&e= and paper copies are available at Queenswood cafe.
All of the park and countryside sites currently managed by the council – from the Black Hill to Tupsley Quarry – are now available for transfer or service withdrawal.
Though community groups get first pick, they do have to demonstrate a capability to run the site they want. The
The council is looking at introducing parking charges to make about £150,000 a year out of Queenswood, should a takeover fail to go ahead.
Options that effectively end the council’s parks and countryside service in its existing capacity have been backed by cabinet.
A review of parks and countryside management has been under way for several months. The transfer of assets is pitched as offering communities opportunities to develop sites in any way that they may see fit.
Any site disposals require the serving of statutory notices and – unless market value can be obtained – will need to be justified on economic, social and environmental grounds.
Justification satisfies consent orders allowing undervalue disposals – where the property value is less than £2 million – without the involvement of central government and provided relevant criteria are met.