Project Skyline is a feasibility study that is looking at the possibility of communities managing the landscape that surrounds their town or village.
What would happen if we handed to local people the means to shape their own environment? Not the current piecemeal approach, a small patch of woodland for a few years, but hundreds of hectares for hundreds of years - to the “skyline”. What might a community choose to do with the land if it could plan not for the three years of a Lottery grant but for three generations? Create jobs from forestry? Support small-holdings or food projects? Improve public access? Support wildlife? Or a combination of ideas and more besides.
Project Skyline is seeking to answer these questions. We will be working with three communities in the Valleys - Treherbert, Ynysowen, and Caerau - as well as all of the key stakeholders such as NRW, and the Local Authority, to understand whether and how land that is currently publicly managed could be managed by a local community.
The feasibility study is being run by The Green Valleys Community Interest Company (TGV CIC) with funding from the Friends Provident Foundation. TGV CIC is a local social enterprise with experience of community woodland and energy projects.
The most important work will be working with communities to explore what it might mean and to understand the risks and opportunities. The feasibility project will be seeking to answer some of the following questions:
But all of this work is driven by the vision that the community will develop for their landscape – their plans and visions for the next 5 years and the next 100 years!
This will very much depend on the outcome of the feasibility study. Potentially a community may be able to put the plans into practice if we can demonstrate that social and economic benefits of community land management outweigh the risks – and that crucially – that there is widespread support for the idea across the community. We will also need to demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the current landowners and managers, that community management can bring benefits to everyone.
But is a journey into the unknown. This hasn’t been tried in Wales before, so can’t be certain where we will end up!
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Part of the work undertaken within the Skyline Project will be to ask the question about how community land projects should be governed. We will be looking to the experiences of Scotland and further afield to identify effective governance structures. What does good governance look like? What is the relationship of community land projects with elected representatives?
What are the sustainable business models that are appropriate within each valley? We will be looking across Scotland and the rest of Europe to find examples of successful enterprises, private and social, that can create income and jobs within the valley.
At the heart off the Valleys' industrial past nature had largely retreated. As mining and manufacturing declined a rich diversity of species started to to recolonise their pre-industrial range. The Valleys are now host a very rich ecology. We need to be sure that potential changes in land-use don't harm and, where possible, enhance the habitat for the many species returning.
Here are links to a number of resources that have informed our work on Skyline.
Know if other research, reports, blogs, or resources about community action to develop stronger local communities and economies, then email me a link to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add it to the library.