09/Dec/2011..WILL WOODLANDS ARE TO OPEN LOTS OF NEW PATHS!! THE ACCESS PROMISED IS TO BE PARTIALLY PROVIDED!! THE PUBLIC WILL BE ABLE TO USE THE ESTATE AS A RESOURCE AND AMENITY. Thanks to the Forestry Commission and the Ombudsman for getting this to happen!! (See 'Updates' for the documents that promise this
CHARITY LAND SCANDAL. FIND OUT HOW YOUR TAXES ARE BEING USED TO FUND PRIVATE ESTATES FROM WHICH THE PUBLIC ARE LARGELY EXCLUDED (Updated 19/June/2011)The policies that we are complaining about in the Mendips are evident on other Will Woodlands Estates. Please see the relevant pages by clicking on the buttons. These include the latest complaints to the Forestry Commission, and the Environmental Statements that informed them.
Please also sign the petition available here
The Background.The Hazel Manor Estate in Somerset was bought by a the Will Woodlands charity with money donated by a philanthropist. She is now deceased, and the charity is run by three remote and secretive trustees. The charity’s aims are to plant trees, conserve flora and fauna, and promote public enjoyment of the natural environment. However, there are some very strange things happening.
What is the public money situation?Around 2000, the charity applied for money from the Forestry Commission to plant trees. After an extensive public consultation process, involving the public, the charity, and all of the agencies, the planting of trees in the estate was grant aided to the tune of £500,000. An 'Environmental Statement' was produced by the charity and the Forestry Commission used this as the basis of signing the contract for the money. This Environmental Statement carried in it public access conditions and a rather important map
The all important contract map of public accessThis map (4.7) of public paths forms part of the contract for public money in the Environmental Statement, and almost NONE of these paths have been opened.(Its a 6 Meg file alas) The legally binding contract promised that the land would become 'open access'as the woods developed.(Para 9.24). The agent of the charity on the other hand issues this map when asked to describe public access. Why is there such a difference between map 4.7, and the map he issues? They proudly claim public benefit by 'maintaining public rights of way'. This is the duty of any landowner. They also then claim to have 'opened' 3 permissive paths, but 2 of these have existed for centuries! The vast area of the estate is denied to the public, in breach of the Forestry Commission contract terms and conditions. This map, produced by a campaigner, shows the paths have not been opened in green.
Update 28 August 2010! The matter has been taken to DEFRA lawyers and we finally know the Will Woodlands' position regarding the binding contract terms for the issue of public money.
The first contract term is Access on foot for quiet enjoyment will be CREATED via an EXTENSIVE system of public rides.(9.24) The FC have told me that Will Woodlands have argued that 'CREATING access' is not the same as 'PROVIDING access'!!! On the basis of that no one will be permitted to use the large area of prohibited land..
The second contract term is 'Once the trees are fully established foot access will be permitted throughout the woods' Reference is then made to an illustration that shows the woods as 'fully established' in 50 years. The Forestry Commission have refused to take this impasse to court as they do not agree with Will Woodlands' interpretation. (New 20 June) The Ombudsman is to look at the matter of contracts issued by the Forestry Commission. More to follow
What then of the Public Consultation process that led to the financing of this project? This seems to have been a sham as there seems to be no intention from Will Woodlands to fulfill their obligations. This is confirmation of the question I have been asking for years. WHY ARE PUBLIC FUNDS BEING USED TO CREATE A PRIVATE ESTATE? Why are the public to be excluded for 50 years, long after all memory of these matters has died, and 40 years after the Forestry Commissions ability to do anything has expired. See the News and website updates pages.
So what are the motives for the denial of public access?The trustees long ago delegated all management to the land agent Dreweatt Neate now Carter Jonas of Wells, whose representative for Hazel Manor is Alastair Martin. Mr Martin appears to have a conflict of interest as he is mixing his personal interests with those of the charity. Before Will Woodlands owned the estate, the hunt was allowed onto the land, as the charity’s own 1999 Environmental Impact assessment says and the matter will be 'reconsidered' around 2020. Now we find that Alastair Martin holds the official post of Chairman with the Mendip Farmers Hunt
MPs have been left ‘baffled’ at the evasive and nonsensical justifications given for access restrictions. One must raise the question, why are he and Will Woodlands prepared to fight so hard, bending the truth, ignoring best practice, if there is not some hidden agenda??
The Campaign has nothing against the hunt, and realises that the current government will allow this ancient pastime to take place again. It objects to general members of the public and long term users being refused access, in breach of the contract terms that formed the basis of the grant of public money
The ability of the Forestry Commission to require the charity to follow their contract conditions expires in 2012. The hunt has not been on the land yet, but after 2012 there is absolutely nothing that can be done to prevent them using this estate as their private domain!!
Check out the Forestry Grants and the Charity Commission pages
Other Estates.(Oct 10 2010) There are similar reported problems on 2 other estates, Yatesbury and Broomhill. Please see the relevant pages.
This website is the product of a group of people that would like access to PUBLICLY AIDED LAND. The site has been created by Ken Wilkinson, 55 Reedley Road Bristol BS9 3TD, Tel 0117 9620455, mob 07792833991. email....k e n n y w p a r a @ g m a i l. c o m