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Press Release - Launch of Long Lands Common

A New Community-Owned Woodland for Harrogate & Knaresborough – 9th April 2020

Residents, schools, community groups and businesses in Harrogate and Knaresborough are being urged to support the creation of what is believed to be the first community owned woodland in the area.

The proposed project 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.

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. It's the new project led by Nidd Gorge Community Action (NGCA) following its successful 3-year campaign against the 'Harrogate Relief Road' proposed by North Yorkshire County Council.

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) explains:

"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 Nidd Gorge road? 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 greenbelt - to plant with trees, preserve for ourselves and wildlife, and leave as a legacy for future generations, instead of a road.

For the last three years NGCA have been asking people to say 'No'. This time we can give out a positive message at a time when everybody needs some hope for the future and ask people to say 'Yes' to Long Lands Common.

Throughout the 'Save Nidd Gorge and Nidderdale Greenway' and HALT campaigns we have been telling people how bad the proposed Northern Relief Road would be for our environment, our wildlife and for future generations.

Thankfully our message was heard and the people of Harrogate and Knaresborough responded in overwhelming numbers to say a loud and clear ‘No’ to the road. The response of the community was fantastic and the result was a vindication for the efforts of the hundreds of people who volunteered their time and effort. It was truly a community powered campaign and a demonstration of what can be achieved when people come together around a common issue.”

A Social Enterprise, with the legal status of a Community Benefit Society – Long Lands Common Limited - has been set up to allow money to be raised through a community share offer. When 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 when it comes to decision making in order to ensure that the community retains control of the project.

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.

The online launch on 9th April will formally reveal the site of the planned woodland and explain how members of the public can buy shares to raise the £300,000 needed to buy the land - before the November deadline to purchase the land expires - and begin the transformation work, planting trees and laying paths.

To find out more about the project and to register their interest in becoming a shareholder and making this proposal a reality, the public are being encouraged to visit www.longlandscommon.org.

The website will also feature a home education section set up to provide outdoor-based activities, for children stuck at home during the Coronavirus emergency.

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