Written evidence submitted by Spen Valley Civic Society (SVCS) (TPW0011)

Spen Valley Civic Society (SVCS) is a small voluntary organisation created in 1973, with membership numbers of between 30 and 50 over time. Our community civic projects are undertaken by members and volunteers, and funded by grants.

This submission from SVCS is based on our experience during more than 40 years, of planting up small areas of native trees throughout our district. Recently we completed our most ambitious project: creation of the Jo Cox Community Wood. This is a small wood of approximately 2.5ha with 1,000 trees and 150m of hedging. It has disability friendly access and paths, a picnic area plus an outdoor learning area for schools.

We have two messages.

Firstly: small is not only beautiful but also important to achieve ambitious tree-planting targets. Our district is in the centre of the West Yorkshire industrial conurbation, where the opportunity to create large tracts of woodland is very limited. This must also be the case for much of the country, yet it is in these urban areas that woodland is most needed, to combat the effects of pollution and provide communities with quality outdoor space. Many small woods aggregated together result in a significant addition to the national resource.  We suggest that all local authorities be mandated to work with organisations large and small, and their communities, to identify suitable sites where urban woodland can be created. The value of such new woodland will be maximised if it is a resource for recreation and outdoor exercise: in this case, linking sites to existing footpaths/routes to school/town centres/walking & cycling routes is important. Local knowledge may also enable privately-owned land to be successfully used for tree planting. SVCS did such a project in the 1980s & 1990’s, resulting in several small woods that survive today.

Our second message concerns the importance of engaging with and involving local communities. Not only in the identification of suitable sites, but in the design, planting and future maintenance of the woodland. If people have played a part in creating a wood, they are more likely to cherish and protect it, and view it as an asset for their community.  This has been our experience. We had over 150 people (plus local schools) involved at some point in the Jo Cox Community Wood project, which has been created with access for all sections of the community as a priority. Because it is in an urban setting, the green traffic-free space it offers is even more valued. More than 100 people visit the wood most days.  We also instigated a tree sponsorship scheme, which has encouraged local people to plant “their” tree and care for it into the future.

Further information about Spen Valley Civic Society’s Jo Cox Community Wood can be found on our website https://www.spenvalleycivicsociety.org.uk/projects/jo-cox-community-wood


November 2020