Welcome to the Friends of the Wilderness Centre
We are a voluntary community organisation formed in December 2010 to support the continuance of the Wilderness Centre as an Environmental Education Service.
Having failed to persuade the County Council to retain environmental services the friends of the Wilderness Centre began to campaign to run the service. A Community Interest Company was formed called The Wilderness Project. The vision, aims and governance of The Wilderness Project can be found at www.thewildernessproject.org.uk
Friends of the Wilderness Centre Newsletter – Tuesday 20th May 2014
Is this the end for the Wilderness Centre?
On Monday 19th May, 2014 Gloucestershire County Council reviewed the purchase bids for the sale of the Wilderness that were submitted on 16th May. The Conservative run cabinet had a choice to make – they could either choose the offer with the “best value” to the community or they could choose the offer with the “highest price”.
A partnership bid was submitted by businessman Mr. Neill Ricketts with the Wilderness Project community interest company. This win-win bid not only exceeds the sum that The Wilderness Project would have been expected to pay, but would also have created an extensive series of social, economic and educational benefits by developing the residential environmental education centre into a modern facility.
This partnership bid offered a ‘best value’ option that, over the years, would have paid dividends time and time again.
However, the Board of The Wilderness Project have been informed that yesterday the cabinet chose to reject this proposal in favour of a higher priced bid.
If this decision is allowed to stand, the Wilderness Centre will be lost to the community for ever.
For nearly three years the Conservative run council have placed hurdles in the way of community ownership. It is ironic that at this eleventh hour a sound economic solution, with a private purchaser, has been placed before the council and they still refuse to cooperate. What does this say for the council’s true attitude towards empowering the community to run valued services.
This disastrous decision to sell to the highest cash bidder was made by local politicians, only local politicians can now reverse matters. The full council has days in which to re-think this decision. The community has done all it can to restore the highly valued environmental education service; will our elected representatives now step up and save the Wilderness?
Latest News – Monday 19th May 2014
Eleventh-hour rescue for Wilderness?
The long-running saga of the county’s favourite environmental education venue, The Wilderness Centre in the Forest of Dean, is approaching a gripping finish.
The County Council rejected The Wilderness Project’s recent request for community asset transfer and went ahead with the sale of the Wilderness, with bids closing at noon on Friday 16th May, 2014.
Within the past few weeks, local businessman, Neill Ricketts (CEO of Versarien) has proposed a ‘hybrid’ approach to save the property. This bid was duly placed with estate agents Bruton Knowles before the deadline on Friday.
In partnership with the community-led Wilderness Project, Neill has offered to purchase the property and secure the future of the excellent environmental education service and the rich natural heritage associated with the site – something that would be lost forever with a purely commercial sale. The ‘hybrid’ proposal details how this new partnership will protect this asset – that local taxpayers and community businesses have contributed to over decades.
Download a copy of the bid from the homepage of The Wilderness Project website:
Neill has local roots himself; his vision for a centre of excellence serving the young people of Gloucestershire, linking environmental concerns with a growing local economy is perfectly in line with that of The Wilderness Project Board.
Let’s hope that when the cabinet are reviewing all the purchase bids for the Wilderness Centre they will be able to acknowledge that the Neill Ricketts bid in partnership with The Wilderness project represents the BEST VALUE for the tax payer in the short term and for the community in the long term. It is a win-win solution.
Many thanks for your continued support.