Community Woodland proposal for park in Ashby to be put to residents - amid 'drug dealing' concerns in the area
By Graham Hill
13th Mar 2023 | Local News
Renewed plans for a community woodland to be set in Ashby's Western Park have been put on hold due to fears that it could provide added cover for drug dealing in the area.
Last week's meeting of Ashby de la Zouch Town Council's Parks and Cemeteries committee heard that the National Forest want to pick up the baton after the original idea for a 'Tiny Forest' failed to secure the necessary support.
Ashby's council's Tree Warden Ian Retson also supports the idea.
But committee chairman Cllr Roger Bayliss said that plans for the woodland on the park had raised concerns from local residents.
He said: "I've had people coming to me saying that they were uneasy about it.
"The problem was - I'm talking about the houses immediately adjacent to the park - an ongoing concern about drug dealing going on at that particular patch of ground.
"They're anxious about anything that might give additional cover to these goings on.
"I wonder if we can take this to the local residents, with some explanations from the council."
Cllr Geraint Jones added: "I agree, and I think the police are aware of the ongoing problems there. I don't think anyone has been arrested for those activities."
But Cllr Dave Bigby said there were plenty of wooded areas in the town, and Cllr Mary Tuckey said she supported the idea of planting more trees in the town.
However Cllr Bayliss was merely passing on concerns, and it was agreed that there should be a consultation with local residents.
Ashby found out last December that the 'Tiny Forest' scheme could not go ahead after losing out to Newcastle and St Helen's.
Cllr Barbara Kneale had been confident of bringing the project to to the town - and siting it in Western Park.
She had already been asked what sort of legacy it would leave for the town after speaking to Jane Rampin who is the Land Manager for Earthwatch Europe.
But the funding went to Newcastle and St Helen's on a deprivation basis instead.
Since then, the National Forest company has written to the town council with an alternative plan, using part of the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Councillors were shown the company's proposal which reads: "National Forest company proposes that we work with Ashby Town Council to create a new community woodland on the Western Park site that was originally suggested for the tiny Forest scheme.
"We will be able to work with any existing interested, volunteers to ensure that we don't lose momentum, and we will work with the rural community council to expand the pool of volunteers interested in engaging with the site.
"We will engage with local people and the local school beyond these volunteers to understand herbicide will be used to make sure it is co-designed with the community.
"We will work with a woodland designer, Charles Robinson, to complete the relevant National Forest grant applications to secure funding for the purchase and planting of trees, and for any other aspects of the site that are included in the design, eg, wildflower meadows, birdboxes, etc.
"Longer term support for the woodland will be available from the National Forest company in the future to ensure the continued use of the site."