Productive Woodland Enterprise Workshop

held in Birmingham on October 17th 2013

The National Association for AONBs (NAAONB) has been supporting 8 AONB partnerships across England to engage with productive approaches to woodland management, such as community wood fuel.

The pilot project uses social enterprise tools to tackle the challenges of

  • Professional advice to communities who wish to engage in woodland management
  • Economic approach to woodland management
  • Public concerns and misconceptions over active woodland management
  • Long term viability of AONB partnerships with less reliance on government funding

Social enterprises are proving successful ways of saving and developing community assets. 57% of social enterprises work in rural areas. Social enterprises are generally performing better than more traditional business models over the past few years of weaker performance. Community-run social enterprises in other sectors, such as rural shops, have a high success rate. Success often occurs where private businesses have failed, by unlocking support from communities.

This event launched the project’s final report. Participants from the 8 pilot projects shared their experiences of testing social enterprise approaches in woodland management. The report includes tools that communities can use, including how to estimate wood fuel production potential of a woodland, use of community shares, how to access land and agree lease / ownership agreements.

This innovative approach to the delivery of AONB management plan objectives helps strengthen a growing social enterprise culture, makes best use of relationships, trust, and active partnerships at the local level, and reflects many of the aspirations outlined in the UK Government’s Forestry and Woodland Policy Statement and the Grown in Britain programme.

Objectives

By the end of the workshop participants had had the opportunity to explore

  • The role of social enterprises in unlocking productive woodland management
  • The kinds of support AONB partnerships can provide to support woodland social enterprises
  • Lessons learnt from the 8 social forestry pilot projects
  • Common tools and transferable approaches
  • The future needs of woodland social enterprises
  • A growing role for landscape partnerships

The eight NAAONB supported social forestry pilots are taking place in: Arnside and Silverdale, Blackdown Hills, Dorset, East Devon, Kent Downs, North Pennines, Quantock Hills and Tamar Valley AONBs.

Information on study visits to the Arnside & Silverdale and Dorset AONBs, to explore in more detail the woodland social enterprise activities that have taken place over the last 12 months, was made available at the meeting.