CAT 'Raincliffe Woods' Feb 2016 - Update

Mortal Mindy's picture

Update & response to the letter to all Councillor "Concerning the Future of Raincliffe Woods"

1.  Background: Community Asset Transfer Policy

The decision to transfer Raincliffe Woods into  community management was made in accordance with the Council's Community asset Transfer Policy.  Raincliffe Woods is one of a number of assets that have been transferred in recent years.

Details about the Council's Community Asset Transfer policy and information about specific assets can be found at:  http://www.scarborough.gov.uk/CAT

For information the cabinet decisions in relation to Raincliffe Woods can be found at: http://democracy.scarborough.gov.uk/ieListdocuments.aspx?cid=108&Mid=5780 (Cabinet Tuesday 20th January 2015)

& http://democracy.scarborough.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?Cid-108&Mid=4418 (Cabinet Tuesday 10th December 2013)

2.  Raincliffe Woods Community Enterprise (RWCE)  is a social enterprise, established in 2012 and is a locally based group made up of local people and organisations, such as Groundwork North Yorkshire, and Coast and Vale Voluntary Action.  The Woodland Management plan and associated works are managed through an agreement with the Woodland Trust, which is the UK's largest woodland conservation charity.  Further information about RWCE can be found at:  http://www.communitywood.co.uk

The group have a range of individuals and skills within their Board structure.  There have been some changes in membership over the year but positively the group have attracted new members in their first full year of operation since transfer. The Borough Council has two representatives on the Board of RWCE (this was a condition of the transfer) Councillors Bill Chatt and Andrew Jenkinson.

The Group held an AGM in April 2015, with this year's AGM provisionally scheduled for 13 April 2016.

3. Woodland Management Plan

The Woodland Trust has just completed the first phase of the Woodland Management Plan.  This was included as part of the Business Plan approved by Cabinet and is supported by all of the relevant agencies including Natural England, Forestry Commission and National Park Authority.  The Woodland Trust also secured a £100,000 grant from WREN's FCC Biodiversity Action Fund to undertake non-economic restoration work.

Over the years, much of the native broadleaf woodland which once covered Raincliffe Wood, Row Brow Woods and a small part of Forge Valley have been felled and replaced with a mixture of non-native conifer species.  The aim of the woodland management plan is to put in place a sympathetic managment system, with a programme of gradual non-native tree removal.  Selective 'thinning' enables greater levels of light to penetrate the tree canopy, which in turn encourages a wide variety of native plants, trees and wildlife.

Around 50% of the woodland will be managed as continuous cover forestry, which is where the canopy of trees is maintained through the careful selection of trees for felling.  This avoids any clear felling areas and large scale impact on the landscape.   Income from the timber extraction is reinvested in the woods to support the sustainable management of the woods and the wider work such as education, events and improvements.

There have been some concerns raised about the scale of the recent works.  Cabinet approved no more than 1,000 tonnes per year of timber to be extracted and this was written into the License under which RCWE (and the Woodland Trust) are operating in the woods.

The Woodland Trust has confirmed that less than 800 tonnes of timber has been felled in the first year of operations.  This is around 600 tonnes as a result of harvesting operation and around 150 tonnes as a result of the uneconomic thinning work (fell to waste).  Overall the thinning intensity was below the 20% considered normal for such activities.

There were some concerns raised about the impact of the harvesting works on some of the paths, and the impact was compounded by very wet weather during the period of operations.  However, resinstatement works have been undertaken to level the ruts.  There are some areas of bare earth, however this is a short term issue and these will green up come the Spring.  We would expect to see a healthy influx of new growth where the tracks have been disturbed as a result of seeds being brought to the surface.

The 2016 programme is likely to be of a similar scale (up to 1,000 tonnes) and will cover a similar sized area.  However, the intention is to work to the old sawmill site which should avoid disruption to the carparks.

The letter raises issues about "run off, flooding and landslip".  I have asked for the views of the Woodland Trust in relation to these issues and their response is reproduced below.

Interception of Rainwater by Trees.

The crowns of both conifer and broadleaved trees do act as interceptors reducing the speed of water run off during periods of heavy rain.  The difference in run off between broadleaves and confirs over small areas is marginal.  It should be noted that no clear felling operations are proposed but very light thinning of the trees to encourage the development of the natural ground flora, which is many areas is very sparse with areas of bare earth.

The conifers have two problems in relation to them acting as long term interceptors of water. Firstly in many places all that exists is tall slender conifer trees with small crowns, a trunk and bare earth beneath.  During heavy rain the bare earth is prone to gradual soil erosion.  In comparison bradleaved woodland can have an improved woodland structure.  This would include the crown of the tree, beneath which you would have understory shrubs and than a dense ground flora.  These 3 elements together would provide a much improved interceptor of rain water.

The second risk with the even aged conifer trees is that they will reach an age and size where they will start to collapse, both individually and in large groups.  This might not happen for a while, but it is a risk for the future.  The pines and spruce whilst they do adapt to external features such as wind and exposure are not normally as receptive as broadleaved trees.  Indeed if you visit the part of the escarpment which does contain bradleaved trees you can see how the exposed oaks and other species are much smaller and have compacted crowns.  In addition the strong northerly wind which hit the woods at the end of 2015 has uprooted a number of conifers.  Fortunately at the moment this seems to be restricted to odd indivudal trees rather than groups.

The recent fell to waste work undertaken on site will have resulted in no change to the system.  The brash on the ground still acts as a water interceptor. 

In summary the work undertaken and proposed within the conifer blocks on the escarpemnt of the woods will not have any significant impact on the interception of rain water.  However, in the long term this work will help to ensure a much more robust woodland develops for the future.

The Woodland Trust held a number of public meetings in relation to the restoration and harvesting works and there was some publicity within the local press.  Plans were available showing the areas where restoration work was to be undertaken.  In addition walks were held in the Woods where people who were interested in the work could find out further information and comment. 

Information Boards have been erected in The Woods explaining about the Woodland Management programme and these are attached.

4.  Community Activity

In the first year RWCE have been working on a number of activities and initiatives around their key themes of Wildlife, People and Enterprise.  These include:

* A successful application to the People's Health Trust, resulting in the first employee, Will Watts, who will deliver the 'Wild about Wooods' project.  This includes engagement with local schools (including Northstead and Barrowcliff) who will be designing and building projects.  The first project is likely to be a seating area and viewpoint up from Throxenby Mere.  There will also be a programme of Easter activities.

* Footpath Improvements - this will be undertaken on a phased basis with volunteers.  Starting at Cunsey Gate and moving on to Raincliffe Gate.  Volunteers are meeting once a week on Fridays between 10-2pm starting on 19th Feburary 2016.

* Volunteers from Scarborough Archaelogical and Historical Society have been surveying and mapping the historical features in the Woods, to scope out potential heritage projects and improve the mapped data.  Work is also ongoing in relation to GIS mappring to build up a comprehensive GIS map of the woods with paths, features, heritage and woodland data which will assist with future planning.  Joint working with the National Park Rangers is scheduled to progress this further.

* RWCE have identified a desire to further develop their communications over the coming year and encourage more volunteers and feedback for the local community.  They have a growing Facebook page with increasing activity, likes, comments and visitor posts, which are positive in tone.  The group are keen to develop this as a key source of information for the local community and will be looking to update their website with a front page Facebook to keep website users updated.

The Community Asset Transfer Panel continues to have oversight of the progress of the transfer. The Council nominated Board representatives provide support to the Group and ensure that the interests of the Council as landowner are protected.

The group are currently operating on a short term licence, pending the completion of the final lease documents which will be for a period of 25 years intitially (as approved by Cabinet).  Should there be any major breaches of the terms of the lease there are mechanisms in place to deal with these.

Key Contacts:

RWCE/Woodland Trust would be happy to provide any further information if required:

Meak Feather: Woodland Trust:  MarkFeather@woodlandtrust.org.uk

Robert Sword: Chair of RWCE r.sword@dawnay.co.uk

For further information about the Council's Community Asset Transfer programme, please contact: 

Jo Ireland:  Customers, Communities and Partnerships Manager

Martin Pedley: Asset and Risk Manager

 

(posted to all Council Members on Tuesday 15th February, composed by Jo Ireland 12th Feburary 2016)

Apologies for any typos's file would not open ;-)) ?? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHpYR-3gnUg

Well Done to Jane Strutt for bringing this to full Council's attention.  There is to be an internal review at the end of the month and yours truly will update as appropriate.

Many Thanks also to Jo Ireland for a comprehensive 'factual' history of RWCE to date, that should answer a few questions...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xx0_yR9X2xU

Could be fun? PS:  Volunteers are meeting once a week on Fridays between 10-2pm starting on 19th Feburary 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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6 Comments

Capt. 'Bob''s picture

RCWE - 'Hidden Horizons'

http://www.yorkshirecoastradio.com/news/local-news/1893571/new-project-t...

"As part of the project RWCE have engaged Will Watts as a part time Project Officer. Will worked for 12 years for Scarborough Museums before leaving in 2013 and setting up a new company Hidden Horizons, he will combine his role for RWCE with his own business. Will said, ‘I am delighted to be able to work with the enterprise and local communities to really engage people with this fantastic space on our doorstep.

The woods are a special place and we want to maintain that feeling in all that we do. Whilst the funding is primarily in place for work with Northstead and Barrowcliff Communities I am sure many others will benefit, and this project will provide a taster for what the community enterprise can bring to all Scarborough residents.’

Plans are now being developed to work with local schools and community groups, and new activities, volunteering opportunities and events will be publicised in the coming weeks. The Community Enterprise is keen to hear from any groups who have ideas for working with them, and can contact Will on will.watts@hiddenhorizons.co.uk or 07964 759433"

http://hiddenhorizons.co.uk/

Ah, so, Erm ....  SOSO

Benefitz Betty's picture

RCWE: The 'Illogical' Route

1. Risks - The activites of the RWCE  will impact on Scarborough's back road, corridor, along Forge Valley with it's many outlets  to the A171.   Should the Forge Valley arterial route become blocked by 'unforseen circumstances' the consequences could be severe and costly to all traversing the notorious A171 between Scarborough and Whitby.

http://www.whitbygazette.co.uk/news/local/stats-down-for-road-deaths-and...

2.  Exclusivity - the beneficial activities listed by RWCE can be carried out by the community without the commercial aspects of 'privatisation' of the woods. Is this a short term 'austerity' measured political funding fix? What of the longterm issues that may arise in the future. SBC says careful monitoring will take place? Do or will they have the resources to monitor effectively.  The geological, historical and environmental  heritage of the 6000 year old woodland is being commercially 'packaged'.

3.  Alternatives - https://www.gov.uk/government/news/countryside-stewardship-opens-its-doo...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWa5vE4MUpU

http://www.northyorkmoors.org.uk/visiting/enjoy-outdoors/walking/our-wal...

The bottomline is have SBC carried out due dilligence?

The first year trial period has revealed inconsistencies, especially within RCWE's own ranks.

Has a full consultation been carried out including Forge Valley operatives and road users? 

What examples of SBC's historical  misjudgement or mismanagement of local assets can be called upon in reviewing the 'due dilligence' process?

Would a further one year 'trial period' be prudent?

Who will be held to account when Officers continue to hold behind closed doors meetings?

Has SBC ever done an 'Ooops' we are mistaken or we got it wrong?

WIP ... tis a starter for ten, a belter:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diToYaNJadk

Benefitz Betty's picture

SBC Thwarts Local Conversationists

http://www.whitbygazette.co.uk/news/local/new-visitor-centre-plans-are-u...

"Colin and Mike were all set to present their plan to senior councillors at a Cabinet meeting in February where the future of the borough’s TICs was being debated following a cost-cutting proposal to market the leases.

But it was dismissed without debate while councillors supported the idea of a redundant storage area being used to promote the town’s tourism instead, or that the service be moved to the Harbour Office.

A further meeting gave hopes the project could remain on the drawing board when a scrutiny committee recommended a period of six months be granted for groups to come forward with alternative uses and business plans for the site. It also said the council should re-assess inaccurate tourism statistics, consult with tourism hotspots in the Esk Valley and re-consider the location changes.

However, a week later the Cabinet once again dismissed the issue."

http://democracy.scarborough.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=540&MId=7470

http://democracy.scarborough.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=108&MId=7064

Tut.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htMHHLdC-as

http://www.yorkshirecoastradio.com/news/local-news/1928969/improvement-w...

 

Capt. 'Bob''s picture

RCWE: Contractor's Complaints

Clearly not commercially sensitive .... & re-edited :

"I was born in Scarborough in 1960 and I’ve lived in the area all of my life. I did the felling in Raincliffe woods last October. I’ve had to watch and listen to all the rubbish that’s been peddled as fact ever since. I’ve suffered attacks on Facebook; financial information being divulged, albeit incorrectly, online, and, of course, there were the occasional verbal assaults we were subjected to on site last year.

I have no issue with people who want to make their feelings known. I’ve worked in forestry for 30 more years and I’ve seen everything, or at least I thought I had until we started work at Raincliffe.

What I find most galling is supposition being stated as fact; the use of outrageous and emotive language for effect, and the blocking on Facebook groups of people who could offer information in response to complaints that no one would answer questions.

For those of you who are interested, here are some facts about forestry in general and Raincliffe in particular.

European larch is not disease resistant. This is probably the most worrying piece of misinformation being held up as fact. P Ramorum affects Japanese larch, hybrid larch and European larch equally, it has no preference. More than 80 per cent of the larch in Raincliffe is either hybrid or Japanese, regardless of what it says on Facebook.

The Woodland Trust has carried out all the planning, mapping, arranging of felling licences and all the other administration work for free, yet they are accused of being in it purely for profit.

I did the work in Raincliffe at a rate that was 20 per cent less than the job I moved from on Londsboro estate and 15 per cent less than the job I went to after Raincliffe.

Raincliffe is vulnerable because it contains so much larch that will, at some point in the not too distant future, become infected with P Ramorum. I sincerely hope it doesn’t but having seen what has happened to the larch in Wales and Scotland I’m afraid it’s almost inevitable."

Spores ....

 
"Bizarrely P Ramorum is part of the same family as potato blight. It can be spread by people, anything with wheels, animals, wild and domestic, birds and the wind and yes it can be spread by forest machinery but there are bio security measures that have been in force for several years. Larch isn't the only tree that is at risk, the whole P Ramorum story is available here:  http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pramorum "
 
Captain Qahn's picture

RCWE: Walks not Talks

"Walks are being held in Raincliffe Woods to help inform the public about changes happening as part of a woodland restoration project.

The Woodland Trust is overseeing the project, which invovles the thinning of a 200-hectare site in Forge Valley and Row Brow Woods.

With the first stage now complete, people have the chance to find more and ask questions about progress to date.

The Trust has also installed a number of interpretation boards on site to help visitors understand the complex restoration process.

Mark Feather from the Woodland Trust said: “The restoration work undertaken during the winter has focussed on the steep slopes of the woodland, seeking to reduce the dominance of non-native conifer trees..."

"The walks will be held on May 15 and 25 at 2pm."

The AGM for RCWE is being held on the 19th May and anyone wishing to proactively take part at the AGM must register five days earlier, by 12th May. 

Details of how to sign up as a member are under review. 

http://www.thescarboroughnews.co.uk/news/local/woodland-trust-to-give-up...