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Castle Woods, Helensburgh – Great News – but we need your help!

After many years of hard work Helensburgh Community Woodlands Group and the owners of Castle Woods have entered a binding agreement on the sale of Castle Woods.   We are incredibly grateful to the Scottish Land Fund for their award of 95% of the purchase funds and to the WM Mann Foundation for their support and generosity in helping us complete the purchase.

Castle-Wood-overhead

We now urgently need your help and support to raise the rest of the funds required to complete Phase 1 of the project – the restoration and protection of the woodland.

Castle-woods-morning-&-evening-light

This includes carrying out tree safety works and crucially the improvement of water management in the woodland. Tree roots have become unstable due to waterlogging.  We need expert help to define and implement a solution to this.

Castle-Woods-chair

In addition we will organize community events to remove the fly-tipping and rubbish that is widespread, and to start removing the invasive rhododendron and laurel that are preventing natural regrowth of the woodland floor.

We estimate the total cost of Phase 1 to be £154,000.   With £117,128 already committed by the Scottish Land Fund we are well on the way but we need help from the public and from charitable funders to get us there.   Public donation is incredibly important because it further demonstrates public support and it gives confidence to charitable organisation’s that their money will deliver benefits to the community – it can have a snowball effect, so please help us if you can.  Any amount no matter how small is very much appreciated and incredibly helpful.

Phase 2 will involve transformation of the woodland to support public access in a sensitive and sustainable way and to improve the bio-diversity in this small but precious natural asset.  Our goal is to install an all-abilities pathway that will allow wheelchair use to ensure everyone in the community can enjoy the woodland and benefit from it.

It will also involve trying to enable an “outdoor classroom” environment for education and play for local primary and nursery schools.  Castle Woods is relatively flat and is in the heart of our residential community so it is ideal for these uses.

Castle-woods-Internal----Springtime

We hope you can support us, and sincere thanks from all in our local community for any help you can give.

PLEASE USE THE PAYPAL DONATE BUTTON AT THE TOP OF THE RIGHT-HAND COLUMN IF YOU CAN HELP US. Or please SEND A CHEQUE made out to Helensburgh Community Woodlands Group, C/O 12 Duchess Park Helensburgh G84

Cumberland Avenue – Campaign News

We were unsuccessful with our application to the Scottish Government for a compulsory purchase of the small woodland at Cumberland Avenue.  We applied under Part 3A of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 as we feel the land has been badly neglected and public ownership of the land by the local community would ensure the future of this valued greenspace.

Unfortunately we are not in a position to be able to appeal the decision. We still maintain a Community Interest (Right To Buy) which ensures we have first right of refusal over the land. We hope that the owners will now take steps to implement a robust management plan that improves the condition of the woodland and helps it become the bio-diverse habitat it should be.  We would certainly support them with that.

Community Buy-Out Newsletter No9

COMMUNITY BALLOT – RESULTS

If you haven’t already heard the results of the community ballot held in September: there was a 43.5% response rate with 92% of votes in favour of a community acquisition of Castle Woods, and 90% in favour of the acquisition of the open ground at Cumberland Avenue.  We are delighted with the results -sincere thanks to everyone that took part. Posting those envelopes was really, really important.  Well done all of you that voted. Download our latest Newsletter here.

Applications for the acquisition of Castle Woods and the open ground at Cumberland Avenue on behalf of the local community in the west of Helensburgh are now being considered by the Scottish Government.   If you would like to read our applications and the supporting documentation please use the following link and click AB00001 and AB00002 to view the documents

https://roacbl.ros.gov.uk/viewRegister.htm

This is groundbreaking stuff – we are the first organisation to have our applications assessed by the Scottish Government under the provisions of Part 3A Abandoned, Neglected or Detrimental Land within the Land Reform (Scotland) act 2003.    It’s now getting significant interest from the press.   A recent article from The Herald

https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/18188257.bitter-battle-bring-woodland-back-life-community-asset/

Thank you Helensburgh!

Castle Woods Helensburgh

The ballot results are in, and we are delighted with the outcome.  There were separate questions posed to gauge the level of community support for the acquisition of the two different parcels of land, Castle Woods and the open ground at Cumberland Avenue.   In both cases, the respondents were 90% in favour.

The full results can be viewed and downloaded here

We would like to thank everyone that took part. This is a very important step in our work to protect, restore and manage these valuable natural assets on behalf of the local community.
  
We will now use the results of the ballot to support our applications to the Scottish Government to bring the land into community ownership and management.   We still have a great deal of work to do to achieve this, but this was a vital step and we are DELIGHTED with the response.  Thanks again to everyone that took part.

August 2019 update: Community Buy-Out Newsletter No. 8 Published

August 2019: Community Buy-Out: Announcement of Community Ballot

We announce a Postal Ballot to take place in September 2019 of the eligible voters who live in the defined post-code area around the two woodlands.  This is required by the Scottish Government to demonstrate support from the local community for the Community Right-To-Buy under Part 3A of the land reform legislation.  The Ballot will be run by an independent organisation – the Electoral Reform Society.  This information is summarised in a leaflet that will be distributed to all the households within the defined area along with Newsletter No.8. 

These post-codes are listed in our Constitution.
The leaflet can be downloaded here
Our Constitution can be viewed here

Our Plans for the woodlands can be viewed here:
Castle Woods
Woodland at Cumberland Avenue

Please note these plans have been developed over a number of years with direct input from the local community.   Some further amendments will be made following input from residents during meetings held in May 2019.

Please note our plans will be subject to the planning application process through our local council (Argyll and Bute) and hence residents will have the opportunity to make formal comment.

August 2019:  Community Buy-Out Newsletter No. 8 Published

Formal offer made to the land-owners but was not accepted.  As the offer had now expired it was deemed appropriate to inform the community about the financial details of the offer.  £100,000 was offered for Castle Woods and £45,000 for the woodland at Cumberland Avenue.  Official records show that the owners paid £140,000 for a parcel of four woodland areas, the other two were felled and houses built.    The next steps in our work to acquire the woodlands are described – submission of applications to the Scottish Government under Part 3A of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 for compulsory purchase.  To support these applications we need to carry out a Ballot of the local community and this is described.

The newsletter can be downloaded here

June 2019: Special General Meeting Held

Two resolutions are passed by the members.  One is a revision to the Constitution, the other is to make a formal conditional offer, subject to finance, to purchase the woodlands from the owners at the full market valuation determined by our surveyor.

May 2019: Community Buy-Out Newsletter No. 7 Published

We announce stage 1 funding support from the Scottish Land Fund.  This is fantastic news as it allows us to achieve a number of key elements in our bid to purchase Castle Woods and the woodland at Cumberland Avenue.  We will contract a professional market valuation of the woodlands, launch definition of a Business Plan for managing and developing the woodlands for the good of the community, and source a firm of solicitors to make a formal conditional offer to the owners for the purchase of the woodlands.

We also announce arrangements for two meetings hosted by Helensburgh Rugby Club to allow residents (particularly those adjacent to Castle Woods and the woodland at Cumberland Avenue) the opportunity to understand our plans for the woods and for them to be able to express their views.  One of the main points raised was by residents of Ardencaple Drive who had security concerns about access to their rear gardens.  We will amend our design for the refurbishment of the woodland at Cumberland Avenue to try and address these concerns.

The newsletter can be downloaded here

February 2019: Jon Hollingdale, Chief Executive of the Community Woodland Association, to speak at AGM

HCWG Newsletter No6

Our 2019 Annual General Meeting will be held on Monday 18 February at 7.30 pm in Helensburgh Parish Church Hall, Colquhoun Square.

Our main speaker will be Jon Hollingdale, Chief Executive of the Community Woodland Association, who will be talking about the achievements of the community woodland movement across Scotland and the potential for future expansion.

Refreshments will be available at the midway break, after which we shall conduct all the normal AGM business, including election of committee members or trustees. This will include a resolution proposed by the current Trustees to make minor amendments to the Constitution, primarily in accordance with advice from the Scottish Government on the legal requirements under the Land Reform (Scotland) Acts.

February 2019: Community Buy-Out Newsletter No 6 published

This month’s newsletter, which is again being distributed to around 1,300 households in the area, focuses on the impact of longstanding environmental decline and mismanagement at Castle Woods and Cumberland Avenue. It explains that under the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, HCWG is entitled to apply the Scottish Government for what amounts to a ‘compulsory’ community buy-out of land that is deemed abandoned, neglected, or in a detrimental condition. The newsletter can be downloaded here.

November 2018: Community Buy-Out Newsletter No 5 published

This month’s newsletter, which is again being distributed to around 1,300 households in the area, explains why there is no need to build on Castle Woods or the land at Cumberland Avenue when there is already more than enough land allocated for housing development in Helensburgh and Lomond. The newsletter can be downloaded here.

November 2018: Discussions with Landowners

Since May 2018, discussions have taken place between HCWG, the landowners and their representatives on the future of Castle Woods and the land at Cumberland Avenue. These discussions have also involved ACHA – the Argyll Community Housing Association.

In the discussions, the owners put forward plans to build 18 flats on Castle Woods and 3 houses at Cumberland Avenue, offering to gift the remainder of the sites to HCWG in exchange for our support for these plans.

HCWG held a well-attended members’ meeting on 17 September, at which the owners’ plans were displayed and explained. There was no support whatsoever among members for building on part of Castle Woods and the land at Cumberland Avenue and indeed very considerable opposition, despite the owners’ offer to gift the remainder of both sites to HCWG.

Members felt that it was not the role of HCWG to support or argue for any breach of the longstanding planning protections for both sites. Moreover, it was also felt that the remaining areas to be gifted to HCWG would not function well as community woodlands because they would be too small, and in the case of Cumberland Avenue, too enclosed. The meeting expressed strong support for the pursuing ‘compulsory’ community buyouts of both sites.

During the course of the discussions with the landowners, HCWG had offered to pay them open market value for both sites, involve them in creating community woodlands there, and name the new areas after them. We hope discussions will continue and will find a way forward based on this generous offer.

September 2018: Community Buy-Out Newsletter No 4 published

This month’s newsletter, which was distributed to around 1,300 households in the area, sets our latest plans for creating a community woodland at Castle Woods. The newsletter can be downloaded here.

April 2018: Spring Newsletter published

This month, HCWG members will be distributing our Spring Newsletter to around 1,000 households within our defined community area in West Helensburgh. The newsletter provides local people with an update on our recent proposals for the land at Cumberland Avenue as well as a reminder of our long-term proposals for Castle Woods.

Download Newsletter here

December 2017: Council’s Area Committee welcomes HCWG’s proposals for land at Cumberland Avenue

Cumberland Avenue: December 2017

Following the launch of our Cumberland Avenue plans, the local Area Committee of Argyll and Bute Council passed the following motion on 21 December 2017:

“The Helensburgh & Lomond Area Committee:
1. Notes the proposals for the Cumberland Avenue site that the Helensburgh Community Woodlands Group (HCWG) has developed, based on local consultation
2. Welcomes the Helensburgh Community Woodlands Group’s aspirations to ensure that this green space is developed appropriately, including:
a) Reinstating and maintaining broadleaved woodland
b) Ensuring public access through the site
c) Enhancing the biodiversity of the site.”

The motion was proposed by Councillor Aileen Morton (Council Leader) and seconded by Councillor Gary Mulvaney (Depute Council Leader), and was passed unanimously by the Committee.

David Adams, HCWG Convenor, commented “We are delighted that our proposals for Cumberland Avenue have been welcomed across all parties on the Helensburgh and Lomond Area Committee and we look forward to liaising closely with Argyll and Bute Council as we now seek to turn them into reality.”

December 2017: HCWG offers new future for land at Cumberland Avenue

Cumberland Avenue Proposal
Our plans to transform the Cumberland Avenue land into a real environment asset for everyone’s benefit, launched at our AGM in November, are now available for download. These plans have been drawn up by our environmental consultant, Iona Hyde, and reflect the preferences of local people expressed at an open meeting held at Lomond School Sports Hall in May 2017.

The key proposals are to:

  • Reinstate and maintain broadleaved woodland at varying densities throughout most of the site
  • Reinstate public access through the site, particularly the link path from Cumberland Avenue to West King Street
  • Create a circular all-abilities path within the northern part of the site
  • Create and maintain a managed open meadow area within the north of the site
  • Enhance the biodiversity value of the site by managing the developing woodland to provide habitat for associated woodland species
  • Create and maintain a species rich herb layer within the developing woodland to encourage colonisation of the site by native pollinators and other invertebrates
  • Remove all Himalayan balsam and ensure that the site remains free from all invasive non-native species, including garden escapees
  • Manage site boundaries to ensure on-going security and privacy of neighbouring properties while ensuring that site amenity is not compromised
  • Encourage responsible use of the site by dog-owners
  • Encourage active, on-going community involvement in development and management of the site

Downloads:

Public Consultation Report and Management Plan [PDF 1.88MB]
Concept Map  [PDF 365 kB]
Concept Design  [PDF 654kB]
Current view from Cumberland Avenue  [jpeg 893kB]
Artist’s impression of view from Cumberland Avenue 10 years after planting  [PDF 353kB]

David Adams, HCWG Convenor said: “The launch of these detailed plans, which have been drawn up in close consultation with the local community, represents a major step forward in our campaign to transform the land at Cumberland Avenue. They offer a new future for the land after years of neglect and controversy. We are confident that if we can acquire the land, we will be able to secure the necessary funding to implement what will be a significant project for Helensburgh.”

The plans have been welcomed by Councillor Aileen Morton, Leader of Argyll and Bute Council and by Norman Muir, Convenor of Helensburgh Community Council, as reported in the Helensburgh Advertiser on 14 December [PDF 948kB].

November 2017: Annual General Meeting

Our Annual General Meeting will be held on Monday 6 November 2017 at 7.00 pm in Helensburgh Parish Church Hall, Colquhoun Square.

We will be launching our new management plan for the land at Cumberland Avenue at this meeting. This has been drawn up by our environmental consultant, Iona Hyde, following the open consultative event meeting which took place earlier this year at Lomond School Sports Hall. Iona will therefore be our main speaker at the AGM, when she will explain in detail how the Cumberland Avenue site can be transformed into an environmental asset for everyone’s benefit.

Refreshments will be available at the midway break, after which we shall conduct all the normal AGM business, including the election of committee members or trustees.

Anyone needing a lift to and from Helensburgh Parish Church Hall, or who can offer someone else a lift to the meeting, should contact Kathleen Siddle, HCWG Secretary, on 678328 or at kathleen.ralph@virgin.net.