Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty is working with co-ops to involve the community in woodland management. The National Association of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (NAAONB) has been monitoring several pilots and promoting their findings.
Blackdown Hills AONB has supported Neroche Woodlanders, a community benefit society founded last year to increase community participation in management of the public forest estate. Dorset AONB is working closely with Axewoods Co-op and Prime Coppice Working Woodland to link volunteers and customers around woodland management the wood fuel market.
Arnside & Silverdale AONB is working with the Coppice Co-op, a coppice workers co-op based in North Lancashire and South Cumbria. The AONB has part-funded the development of the co-operative’s wood fuel business and regularly uses the Coppice Co-op as a contractor. Sam Ansell, whose apprenticeship was part-funded by the AONB, says: “What’s really good for our business and our co-op is a feeling of mutual trust and support between ourselves and the AONB.”
Last year the NAAONB produced its Social Forestry Pilot Project Report, which includes a range of co-operative approaches to woodland management. This year it secured a £50,000 Community Energy Peer to Peer Mentoring grant from central government for the second phase of this work. The aim is to now develop community energy projects and show how social action can help people reduce their energy bills.
Small energy groups often work in isolation, says the government, with no formal networks for skills sharing or mentoring with larger, more established organisations.
Secretary of state for energy and climate change Ed Davey says: “Not only can community energy projects boost local economies and drive forward green growth, they can also help save money on energy bills too.”
The grant is enabling NAAONB to work with partners including Axewoods Co-operative to deliver learning and development around woodland social action.