It may be helpful to clarify the current position. As you will be aware the Council has received two competing bids for Raincliffe Woods. These have been dealt with, in accordance with the processes set out in the Council’s Community Asset Transfer Plan.
The Council’s Community Asset Transfer Panel has assessed both bids and is recommending that the Council explores further the potential of the bid from Raincliffe Woods Enterpises (RWCE), with a view to this proceeding to a transfer of the Woods to RWE subject to a number of conditions being achieved. In the light of this, the Council is not wishing to proceed with the application from Yorkshire Wildlife Trust (YWT) at this stage.
The recommendation of the Panel will be considered by the Council’s Cabinet in December 2013. I would stress that there is still much more work to do and no final decision has been madeabout transfer, only that the Council wishes to explore further the RWCE bid. Once the Panel is in a position to make a final recommendation this will need to be considered again by the Council’s Cabinet at that stage.
In response to the specific questions raised.
1 Will Forge Valley be safe particularly its SSSI status, its mature hard woods and the very popular boardwalk ? I ask about the boardwalk that the volunteers put down because as I understand it, the enterprise groups business plan involves its removal .
The special status of Forge Valley is acknowledged by both applicants and both have plans in place to preserve this. Raincliffe Woods CommunityEnterprise have discussed their proposals with Natural England (who currently identify and protect the SSSI sites) and Natural England are supportive of their proposals.
The Council values the status of the woodlands and will ensure through it’s agreements that this special status is preserved.
In relation to the boardwalk, RWCE have no specific proposals to remove this, although have highlighted the need for a long term solution for steady improvement to be in place for this wooden structure.
2 Why was the Wildlife trusts bid not put to the full council?
The process is as set out in the Council’s Community Asset Transfer Plan. Details of both applications will be made available to the Council’s Cabinet in December 2013 when Cabinet will be asked to consider the recommendation of the Panel to date as set out above.
Cabinet will further consider recommendations in due course.
3 Were all the relevant council officers asked for their reports, if so how did these reports affect the assessment process?
Relevant officers were involved as part of the Community Asset Transfer Panel, including senior Officers from the Sustainable Communities Unit, Assets and Estates and Parks and Countryside Services.
4 Why did the Raincliffe Enterprise Group receive so much council support making the bidding process floored and challengeable ?
I am unclear what is being referred to here. Both applicants have received advice and support throughout the Community Asset Transfer process.
5 Is SBC supporting the creation of a visitor centre and café in this wild life haven ?
Neither of the proposals includes a café and visitor centre.
6 What revue & monitoring processes are SBC putting in place to make sure that this group stays within its boundaries and legal restrictions ,will SBC revoke the transfer if these agreements are not kept ?
If this proceeds to transfer, this will be subject to a legal lease, with appropriate terms and conditions. This will include provisions in the event that lease terms are breached.
7 What is SBC going to do, to ensure ( legally& practically) the vehicular access for the Scarborough Conservation Volunteers to enable them to work in the Meadow and what measures will SBC take if this access is stopped, interrupted or made impractical?
There are no proposals in the RWCE bid which seek to restrict access to the area currently leased by the Conservation Volunteers.
8 how long are council officers banned from working for or in conjunction with the raincliffe community enterprise group ,if not what is the council’s position on officers taking advantage of any relationship with the group?
I am unclear what this refers to. No officer involved in the decision making process is currently working for, nor part of RWCE, not has declared any personal interest in relation to RWCE.
Appropriate officers will continue to work with the group in terms of their Community Asset Transfer proposals.
9 what percentage of the groups income that goes to pay consultation /management fees to those on the board of the raincliffe community enterprise group and or affiliated in any way to individuals associated with the group does the council accept as reasonable and what contractual measures will SBC take to stop payments over this percentage ?
The assessment process looks at financial sustainability and what will be delivered. It does notspecify the nature of payments that can be made. However, it is a requirement that all groups seeking to take over an asset under the Community Asset Transfer Scheme are non profit distributing.
10 will SPC oppose any changes to the road layout on any of the roads that forge valley and raincliffe woods are adjacent to
No major changes are proposed in the bids received. Any changes to road layouts would need to be agreed with the appropriate authorities, with appropriate consultation.
Any views expressed are those of Tom Fox and not necessarily of the Scarborough Borough Council!!