If Nidd Gorge Community Action’s latest campaign proves successful, the woodland, to be known as Long Lands Common, will border the Nidderdale Greenway, close to its starting point at The Avenue, Starbeck and the Bilton Triangle.
The appeal’s champions say part of the aim is to “take back control” and "leave a legacy for future generations, instead of a road."
And the project has already won support from environmental group Zero Carbon Harrogate which described it as a “fantastic initiative”
One of the key figures behind the Long Lands Common appeal, Bilton resident Chris Kitson, a teacher at the local Grove Academy and founding Chair of NGCA and its offshoot HALT (the Harrogate and Knaresborough Alliance for Less Traffic) sees it as a positive way of the community to taking back control.
Mr Kitson said: “At a time of great concern for the future of the planet, when our actions are threatening the very existence of ourselves and other species, when developers are building on all the green fields they can get their hands on, we can give the community the chance to take back real control, take power into their own hands and collectively own a piece of the green belt - to plant with trees, preserve for ourselves and wildlife, and leave a legacy for future generations, instead of a road.”
Residents, schools, community groups and businesses in Harrogate and Knaresborough are now being urged to support the proposed project which will transform an available piece of greenbelt farmland into a new 30-acre public woodland, accessible to all, with thousands of trees providing a rich habitat for a wide variety of wildlife.
To that end, Long Lands Common Limited - a social enterprise with the legal status of a Community Benefit Society - has been set up to allow money to be raised through a community share offer.
The online launch of Long Lands Common appeal, which took place on Thursday, revealed the site of the planned woodland and explain how members of the public can buy shares to raise the £300,000 to buy the land - before the November deadline to purchase the land expires - and begin transformation work, planting trees and laying paths.
Once the share offer is ready in May, people will be able to buy as many £50 shares as they like but each person will only have one vote in order to ensure that the community retains control.
To register to becoming a shareholder or find out more, visit www.longlandscommon.org
Why the Nidd Gorge group took new step
The founder members of the Long Lands Common Community Benefit Society are committee members of Nidd Gorge Community Action, an unincorporated association established in 2017 to protect the greenbelt between Harrogate and Knaresborough against a proposed relief road near Nidd Gorge.
Chair of NGCA, Chris Kitson said: “Throughout our successful campaign we were telling people how bad the proposed road would be for our environment, our wildlife and for future generations.
“The response of the community was fantastic.
“The result was a vindication of the efforts of the hundreds of people who volunteered their time and effort, and a demonstration of what can be achieved when people come together.
“After asking people to say ‘no’ to something we opposed for the last three years, this time we are hoping we can give out a positive message at a time when everybody needs some hope for the future.”
In a sign of its intent, setting up the society has cost several thousand pounds and been made possible by the award of a grant from the Community Shares Booster Programme backed by Cooperatives UK.
Mr Kitson said: “When we became aware of the 30 acres of land for sale at Long Lands Farm, and the suggestion was made that it would be a good place for a community woodland that could contribute to the new Northern Forest project - to plant 50 million trees across the North of England.
“I immediately knew that this was the obvious next step for NGCA. It made perfect sense.
“Where better to have a new community woodland than on the very same greenbelt land, between Harrogate and Knaresborough, that was threatened by the suggested Nidd Gorge road?”
Support for Long Lands Commons project
Jemima Parker, chair of environmental group Zero Carbon Harrogate, said: "Zero Carbon Harrogate fully support this fantastic initiative.
"Longlands Common will provide a great contribution to capturing some of our district's carbon through tree planting and provide a beautiful local woodland for the community."
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