Future Plans for Speckled Wood
Land Acquisition, Woodland Management & Enhancement and Projects for Community Amenities
Consultation with local residents
Ore Community Land Trust and the community organisations that preceded and created it, have been engaging local residents and organisations over the last 9 years to seek community views and ideas.
There have been numerous public meetings, events and publicity to establish the level of local and indeed Borough wide, support for retaining Speckled Wood as woodland and green space.
In addition, the removal of large amounts of rubbish, the clearance of footpaths and the stream, the construction of a bridge and many steps to improve accessibility, woodland management of the unregistered land and other work has opened up Speckled Wood to the extent that is well used by the local community for walking to work, education and shops and for leisure.
During the campaign to save Speckled Wood many ideas for utilising the valley for community amenities, in addition to preserving and improving the woodland and maintaining animal habitat, have been developed and presented to residents to seek their views. Ore Valley Action launched a Community Plan exercise to present a range of possible improvements and new amenities such as seating, view points, child and adventure play areas, reinstatement of the abandoned allotments and the construction of a section for the proposed Hastings Greenway. This was well received and generated new ideas such as the concept of creating a Village Green for Ore.
It was recognised that the opportunity to realise these community assets would depend, to a large degree, on securing the core aim of the campaign, which is and has always been to have as much of the woodland valley redesignated as protected urban green space. This would allow Ore Community Land Trust to seek funding to acquire land in Speckled Wood, which was why it was launched by the previous campaign groups.
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Over the last 12 months Ore Community Land Trust has developed a number of its ideas for community amenities in Speckled Wood, in collaboration with other organisations, and has sought support and funding to obtain more detailed design for some of the projects. The primary projects are:
• Ore Village Green
• Children’s and Adventure Play Areas
• Community Food Growing
• Enhancement of the Valley floor
• Woodland Management to tackle Japanese Knotweed, open up the dense sycamore canopy and improve bio diversity
• Disabled Access Paths
• The Ore Valley Greenway (including greenway routes in the Lower Ore valley as well as Speckled Wood)
Of these projects, two have obtained local funding in the form of grants from the North East Hastings Big Local fund, which is administered by a resident-led partnership utilising a £1M Government grant.
Ore Village Green
The Ore Village Green project has attracted a great deal of local interest and a research survey organised by Ore Community Land Trust demonstrated the level of public support at 95%. The area of land chosen for this project is on the South side of Speckled Wood behind Old London Road on land that is relatively flat and easily accessible from Ore Village centre.
The detailed design work has been carried out by a landscape architect based the concept plan for a children’s adventure play area, performance space and other amenities including a disabled access path. His report, which was drawn up after a land survey, – Community Village Green ‘Speckled Wood’ Ore – includes many additional ideas including public art installations, a forest school, and barbeque fire pit. The design work was part funded by the Big Local North East Hastings.
This project would involve a partnership with Hastings Borough Council, which owns the small existing Green above the proposed new ‘Village Green’, to create the disabled access path and other landscaping work. Land acquisition, which falls within the urban green space protection area included in the DMP, would be taken on by Ore Community Land Trust.
Ore Valley Greenway
The Ore Valley Greenway Project is more far-reaching project that has been created by Ore Community Land Trust working with the Hastings Greenway Group and is based on the walking & cycling routes set out in the new Hastings Local Plan and in the County Council’s – Walking & Cycling Strategy. It aims to secure the route network within the Lower and Upper Ore Valleys and one of the more important sections runs through Speckled Wood, within the Development Management Plan proposed urban green space protection area.
A Project Group was established to involve the two largest housing associations (Amicus Horizon and Orbit), the Sussex Coast College, Hastings Academy and the Disability Forum (the paths are intended to be fully accessible to people, with disabilities).
The Big Local fund has agreed to cover the cost of the route design work, construction costings and necessary reports to apply for planning permission. This grant will also cover a program of wide community consultation that Ore Community Land Trust and its partners will run alongside the design work.
The design work will be carried out by Sustrans, the national organisation that promotes and designs walking & cycling routes across the UK.
A number of viable funding sources have been identified for the construction of the Greenway paths and so this project, which will bring much needed connectivity across the Ore Valleys and particular benefits for Speckled Wood and local residents, is very likely to be realised.
Land acquisition for the section of the Greenway in Speckled Wood would be reasonably straightforward as the first section from the Frederick Road end is in fact unregistered and could easily be the subject of a Compulsory Purchase Order by Hastings Borough Council. This idea has been discussed with the lead member for Regeneration. The route then runs through two areas of privately owned land before reaching Church Street – believed to be a ‘white’ road, which the highway authority could adopt.
Community Food Growing
The next project to develop is the Community Food Growing initiative, which is very much in line with the recognition of the community value of producing locally grown food and involving residents in the process. It would enhance social inclusion and provide a valuable educational opportunity for local schools and volunteer work for people of all ages.
There is only one area of level and accessible land in Speckled Wood suitable for this project, which unsurprisingly is the area of abandoned allotments behind Old London Road and next to the site identified for the Ore Village Green project. Once again this land is within the DMP urban green space protection area.
It is anticipated that a range of grant funding opportunities will be available for the land acquisition and development of the community food growing project and a partnership of local organisations and schools will be formed to manage the project.
Woodland Below the Village Green and Community Food Growing Area
The area of land for both the Community Food Growing project and the Village Green lies behind Old London Road and benefits for a vehicular access track from Graystone Lane. The land below Graystone Lane slopes away before dropping steeply to the Valley floor. This area is recently grown broad leafed woodland and, although it would benefit from woodland management, some clearance and replanting with indigenous trees, it should be left as woodland to provide the very important buffer zone that provides the quiet and tranquil setting of the centre of Speckled Wood.
Future projects would include a systematic removal of the invasive Japanese Knotweed, enhancement of the Valley floor by selective clearance to open out a clearing with some indigenous tree replanting, seating, the creation of a pond to improve bio diversity and a disabled accessible path running beside the stream and linking to the Greenway. Further improvements to footpaths and the flight of steps and the creation of a number of view points would be included in later stages of the work in Speckled Wood.