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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.

May 2017: Successful consultation event on future of Cumberland Avenue land

Trevor Welch (left) and David Adams (right)
Over 40 people came together for two hours on the afternoon of Saturday 20 May, to plan a brighter future for the land at Cumberland Avenue. Alongside local residents, attendees at the consultative event organised by HCWG included Councillor Aileen Morton (Local Ward Councillor and Leader of Argyll and Bute Council), Councillor Lorna Douglas (Local Ward Councillor), representatives of the Friends of Duchess Wood, and the two current owners of the land (Mrs Margery Osborne and Mr Thomas Paterson).

The meeting started with a presentation on future options from David Robertson of HCWG and Iona Hyde, an arboricultural consultant who has been commissioned by HCWG to help prepare a management plan for the land. The meeting then split into small workshops allowing everyone present to table their own particular ideas and suggestions.

Before the meeting, Trevor Welch of Helensburgh and District Civic Society presented HCWG with a cheque for £1,000 as part of its distribution of funds consequent on the winding up of the society, and in recognition of HCWG’s efforts to retain and enhance Castle Woods and the land at Cumberland Avenue as important open spaces within the town.

David Adams, HCWG Convenor said “HCWG now intends to use the numerous comments and suggestions gathered at this event to prepare a detailed management plan for the land as an important step towards the community buy-out. We are also particularly grateful for the financial support from Helensburgh and District Civic Society which we shall use to help bring the Cumberland Avenue land and Castle Woods into community ownership.

May 2017: Community consultation event planned on Cumberland Avenue

Cumberand Avenue site
Following the decision of Scottish Ministers last November to approve HCWG’s application to register a community interest at Cumberland Avenue, we are now planning to hold an open consultative event to discuss how best to turn this neglected area of land into a real environmental asset for everyone’s benefit.

This event will take place on Saturday, 20 May between 3-5 pm at Lomond School Sports Hall on Rhu Road Higher, Helensburgh. All members of the local community are invited to come. We will also be inviting our MSP and newly-elected local councillors.

At the event, we will be particularly keen to gather local views on:

  • What kind of trees and shrubs should we aim to plant and where?
  • Where should footpaths be provided?
  • Should we retain or remove the mounds left from earlier felling?
  • Should we create a central open space?
  • Are boundary fences needed?
  • How can dogs best be managed?

We intend to use all the comments gathered at the event to prepare and publish a detailed management plan for the Cumberland Avenue land.

December 2016: Another HCWG application approved by Scottish Government – this time at Castle Woods

Castle Woods, Helensburgh
Following our success at Cumberland Avenue last month, Scottish Ministers have now approved our application to register a community interest in Castle Woods. This again means that the owners are now prohibited from selling to any party other than HCWG. We now intend to redouble our efforts to bring both sites into community ownership and believe this could be possible by the end of 2018.

In making their decision, Scottish Ministers stated that “they are satisfied that the proposed application to register an interest in land known as Castle Woods is in the public interest. HCWG’S aspirations show intent to address the needs identified and supported by the local community and, if HCWG are successful in acquiring the land in the future, the sustainable development proposals by HCWG should benefit the local community, the wider Helensburgh community and the wider area through ensuring the land is used for the benefit of the community through the provision of a long-term land and forestry management plan for the land known as Castle Woods, which will help promote the general and social, environmental and economic well-being of the community.

HCWG has long campaigned to preserve and enhance Castle Woods, which is an area of ancient semi-natural woodland that forms an important ecological extension of the local nature reserve of Duchess Woods. It is protected by a Tree Preservation Order, designated as an Open Space Protection Area, and identified as a local Key Environmental Feature. The northern part is a Local Nature Conservation Site. Unfortunately, however, for over a decade the landowners have sought to turn Castle Woods into a 72-unit housing estate.

David Adams, HCWG Convenor, said: “We are delighted to have Scottish Government’s backing for transforming Castle Woods into a community-owned asset for everyone’s benefit. HCWG produced a draft management plan for the woods in 2012 which received widespread support in the local community. In 2013, we almost secured very substantial funding from the Armed Forces Community Covenant Fund to implement the plan and we have been encouraged to re-apply if the owners can be persuaded to sell. Now that the Scottish Government has approved our application, we will be seeking to meet the owners to discuss the long-term future of Castle Woods.

Download a copy of the Scottish Government’s decision here.

For more information, see:

Helensburgh Advertiser: Helensburgh woodland buyout interest approved – but owner says land is not for sale

Lochside Press: Castle Woods community buyout a step nearer

November 2016: Scottish Government approves HCWG application to register a community interest at Cumberland Avenue

cumberland-avenue-nov-2016
HCWG’s application to register a community interest in the land at Cumberland Avenue was approved by Scottish Ministers on 2 November. This is the first step towards a community buy-out and it means that the landowners are now prohibited from selling to any other party than HCWG. This means we can now legitimately see ourselves as the future owners of the land and make active plans to bring this about.

Significantly, this was only the second such decision in the whole of Scotland since the ‘Community Right to Buy’ provisions of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 were extended to urban areas in April 2016. (The first such decision was in October at Portobello, Edinburgh.)

HCWG is highly encouraged by the very positive support given in the decision letter from the Scottish Government, which stated that: “Scottish Ministers believe that, if successfully delivered, HCWG’s proposals could contribute positively to the sustainable development of the land and the local community of Helensburgh.”

David Adams, HCWG Convenor, said: “I’m delighted that our application to register a community interest in the land at Cumberland Avenue has been approved by the Scottish Government. As the next stage in our campaign to bring the land at into community ownership, we will soon be holding a public consultation event to enable the local community draw up detailed plans for the future of the site.”

HCWG expects to hear the outcome of the related application at Castle Woods, Helensburgh around Christmas.

Download a copy of the Scottish Government’s decision here.
Ministers back community buy-out plan for Helensburgh woodlands
Scottish Ministers approve community buyout bid for Cumberland Avenue