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Forestry Commission Scotland will build on its existing work with local communities to derive increased benefit from the National Forest Estate, thanks to a recently completed ‘health check’ on community engagement.
Set up in 2013, the ‘health check’ looked to identify good practice in the way the Commission has engaged with communities over the past ten years, both in order to build upon that success and to help focus resources on delivering maximum benefit in future.
Health Check Working Group Chair, Ian Ross, who has wide experience of rural development and communities issues in the Highlands and Islands, said:
“Forestry Commission Scotland has good, strong links with local communities all across the country, helping them to develop a range of initiatives and forestry projects on the national forest estate – everything from woodfuel and forest tourism ventures to health walks, and from forest schools to renewable energy schemes.
“To help the Commission maintain and enhance those links in the face of increasing pressures on its resources the health check has identified what has worked well and areas that need to be improved. The recommendations we have made will help ensure that local communities can continue to develop ideas and projects that will deliver social, environmental and economic benefits.”
The independent working group invited to carry out the health check gathered information in a wide-ranging survey of staff and of community groups to deliver a positive assessment, along with some recommendations for improvement.
The group agreed 19 recommendations to build on existing good practice that broadly related to organisational culture and communication, more formal training for staff, more targeted resources and reporting and better delivery guidance and tools for staff and communities.
Simon Hodge, Chief Executive of the Commission’s delivery arm, Forest Enterprise Scotland, said;
“We welcome the Health Check report and thank the working group for the comprehensive way they drew in the views of both our community partners and of our staff. This has led to a clear sense of what we can do to build on the existing strong foundations. We have been pleased to accept in principle all of the group’s recommendations.
“We will now focus on delivering our response to the recommendations with the majority of the actions by September 2015. We will do this in collaboration with our stakeholders and mindful of the opportunities we will have to implement the forthcoming Community Empowerment Bill.”
For more detail on the report and the Commission’s response, visit http://scotland.forestry.gov.uk/supporting/strategy-policy-guidance/communities/how-we-work-with-communities/community-health-check
Notes to Editors
1. Forestry Commission Scotland is part of the Scottish Government's Environment & Forestry Directorate www.forestry.gov.uk/scotland
2. For news, events and recreation information log on to www.facebook.com/enjoyscotlandsforests For Twitter: www.twitter.com/fcscotland
3. Established programmes include the Woods in and Around Towns programme (WIAT), National Forest Land Scheme (NFLS), the Woods for Health and Woods for Learning Strategies.
4. A key driver for this 'health check' has been the process to develop the Strategic Directions for Scotland’s National Forest Estate (NFE) document and the feedback from stakeholders regarding the work of FES' to date.
5. The membership of the group comprises Ian Ross (a forester who is also heavily involved with civic life in the Highlands), Joan Mitchell (a farmer with local authority experience in S Scotland), Catherine Ward Thompson (an academic closely involved with WIAT) and John Hollingdale (who leads the Community Woodland Association).