Within this project, all references to Seend should be taken to mean the English civil parish of Seend, which includes the settlements of Seend, Seend Cleeve, Sells Green, Martinslade and Inmarsh.
Where did the idea for a woodland come from?
People of Seend may recall the circa 2019 proposal of Avon Needs Trees (ANT) to acquire approximately 20 acres of land on the northern slopes of the Seend ridge at Bollands Hill for reforestation as part of ANT’s initiative to reforest the Bristol River Avon catchment for the purposes of climate change mitigation. The ANT project fell at the statutory archaeology survey because ANT’s charitable aims did not include the expenditure of funds on archaeology. At that time, it was considered that any reduction in tree planting density to protect archaeology was not best value for ANT charitable funds. ANT had received significant funding from the National Lottery Fund.
Why create a woodland on good agricultural land?
Public consultation as part of the Seend Neighbourhood Plan 2020 - 2030 (Seend NDP) showed there was a desire on the part of the community of Seend to plant more trees. The community wish for more trees was carried forward to the referendum version of the Seend NDP, so it is now part of the plan, reflected in the Green Infrastructure policies and other policies, and the plan aspirations for future projects. One of the accepted strategies for mitigating the effects of climate change is to create more woodland. The Seend NDP identified only one very small site in Seend Cleeve for possible tree planting. Suitably large tracts of land rarely become available and there is significant competition for solar energy sites and equestrian uses, as well as agriculture. Some of the land near to Seend is of very good quality and other areas are graded less so.
The environmental, social, economic, and health benefits of woodland are widely accepted and more prominently promoted in the heat of climate change. The UK Government has set out a 25-year Environment Plan supported by the Trees for Climate Fund. Woodland creation is now embedded as part of both national and international strategies for mitigating global climate change.
The location of new woodland is regulated through the planning system. The Forestry Commission also has to be consulted to ensure new woodland fits with England's national woodland strategy. Some of the general regulatory criteria for community woodland creation requires:
Proposed woodland must be adjacent to a community and have support for its creations.
There must be public access to the woodland.
There must be an organisation available to take ownership of the woodland asset and to care for it into the future - certainly of the first 15 years after planting.
The conversion to forestry, of less productive agricultural land, which is unsuitable for solar energy, is a strategy driven by competition for land in the south and south-west of England.
Does Seend have land for woodland creation?
Seend has 19.72 acres of Grade 3 unimproved agricultural grassland on the northern slopes of Bollands Hill which has been for sale for some time.
As the Bollands Hill land remained unsold, in early 2023 Seend CLT approached the National Lottery Fund to request the financing of a resurrection of the ANT project. In the interim period Seend CLT had negotiated a different protective approach to the archaeology issue with the County Archaeologist. The proposal Seend CLT presented to National Lottery was a two-stage project with community-led archaeology taking place whilst a community tree-planting project went ahead in those areas not affected by any site investigation. Where archaeology was to be preserved for future investigation or study the tree planting scheme would allow for it. National Lottery thought the risk too great for such a small community and that the community would not be capable of meeting all the National Lottery project deliverables, of which there are many.
The CLT decided to pursue an option to create woodland using funding from the UK Government Trees for Climate Fund (TfCF). The Seend project would become part of the UK Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan and provide a protected block of woodland helping to extend and link community forests across the south-west.
The CLT was on the point of obtaining full TfCF funding for the woodland when the land became the subject of an offer from another buyer. On 17th July 2023 Seend CLT then exercised the available community option, under the Localism Act 2011, of listing the land as an asset of community value. The CLT has 6 weeks to notify Wiltshire Council that it is a potential bidder for the asset.
What happens next?
Seend CLT has advised Wiltshire Council that it intends to bid for the land to create a community woodland as a community asset. Public support for the woodland project is managed by the Council using the planning system. The Asset of Community Value application will be found there under this clickable reference: https://development.wiltshire.gov.uk/pr/s/planning-application/a0i3z00001BK2EoAAL/acv202300016. If you support this community project please let Wiltshire Council know by submitting your comments now.
Update - 8th August 2023
The CLT was disappointed to have missed the opportunity to bid for the land, which may have been sold at a higher price than the Trees for Climate Fund was prepared to pay. The CLT still considers it important that land on the northern slopes of the Seend ridge is earmarked for woodland creation. To this end we ask the people of Seend to continue to support this application for listing as an asset of community value. The listing, which lasts 5 years, will ensure that our community is advised should the land is put on the market in the future.
NB: Trees for Climate Funding remains available until 2025. If you, or someone you know, owns land and is interested in creating woodland please let the CLT know. The land does not have to be sold. The woodland created under this scheme is normally the subject of a Conservation Covenant between the landowner and the funder. Woodland maintenance payments are available during the woodland establishment phase. Where can I learn more about Trees for Climate, Community Forests and the Seend Project?