Something’s moving in The Forest…. and it’s good

By Ian Mean,Business West Gloucestershire director
Vantage Point Forest of Dean

The trials and tribulations of the Forest of Dean are sadly part of a long playing record that might well be called “Poor Me”.

For too long, this beautiful area of Gloucestershire has been something of an underdog in the county and certainly not shouted about its great environmental treasures.

Politically, it was a bit of a mess. Town often at daggers drawn with town

Well, I am glad to say that image is changing, and for me the transformation was much in evidence when I listened to the Forest’s £20 million bid to the government’s Levelling Up Fund.

At the heart of that transformation is one word-Partnership.

Very simple but very hard to achieve.

And the words of Tim Gwilliam, leader of the Forest District Council, give an honest assessment of where they have been and where they need to go in the future.

“We are trying to do things differently”, said Tim, ”Perhaps that is something we  haven’t done in the past but we will do in the future.

“We have learned the lessons of the past when we have tried to go out on our own”.

That lead to a fragmented Forest with town often arguing against town.

Ambitious £20 million bid to Government’s Levelling Up Fund by Forest of Dean

Now we are seeing Team Forest in this Levelling Up Bid with all the players pulling together—Forest of Dean District Council, Hartpury University and Hartpury College and Cinderford Town Council.

Just two places in Gloucestershire qualify in Tier 1 of the  Levelling Up Fund—the Forest of Dean and Gloucester.

The Forest has always struggled in the social mobility league and has big challenges in employment and education—particularly providing opportunities to  keep young people living in the area.

So, this bid has to be clever and serve quite a few masters.

In my view, it does just that.

And it has the backing of Forest Conservative MP, Mark Harper, whose parliamentary seniority is important in convincing the government to give them the £20 million.

The bid package consists of a £9million investment at the Five Acres site for new leisure and sports facilities.

There is also a new £10m University Innovation, Careers and Enterprise Learning Centre at Hartpury University and Hartpury College plus an £880 thousand building refurbishment programme in Cinderford town centre.

We get to know if the Forest will get the money in the Autumn.

I think that the result of this bid is summed up by the council’s logo for it:

Levelling Up The Future of the Forest.

Simple. Clear and a result of councils, education and communities working together in true partnership.

 

Ian Mean is a board member of GFirstLEP and an hon. vice president of Gloucestershire College