Yorkshire community group block road construction and build their own common

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Nidd Gorge Community Action group

A North Yorkshire community has achieved something which I think is very impressive. It almost points the way to the future of how people should live and take charge of their lives. What I love about this story is that a group of residents living in North Yorkshire first blocked the construction of a bypass over farmland. That was quite a success but it was the start.

Nidd Gorge Community Action group

Nidd Gorge Community Action group. Photo: Luke Dray.

Notwithstanding that success which took 3 years to achieve under the banner of the Nidd Gorge Community Action campaign, the group discovered that a farmer wanted to sell some of his land because he couldn’t sell it due to the proposed road. This was the opportunity that the group seized on. They formed a community benefit society and sold shares to raise the asking price of the 30 acres of farmland between Harrowgate and Knaresborough. It cost a quarter of a million pounds but they had raised £370,000 and so had some money left over to develop their 30 acres, which they call Long Lands Common. There are plans for a wide variety of habitats and with the objective of making it appealing to people who are disabled or autistic.

James McKay, 44, an artist who works at Leeds University and who is on the committee, said that they will be planting trees but they want the area to be rich in biodiversity and therefore they are building a mosaic of habitats including ponds, wildflower meadows and hedgerows as well.

It’ll be open to the public and every shareholder will have an equal say in how the area is developed. Some businesses have given thousands of pounds while others have struggled to scrape together the £50 to buy shares.

The idea behind the land purchase was Chris Kitson’s, 52, a teacher at a pupil referral unit. He has achieved something wonderful I think, which is autonomy to create an environment that pleases you and which is useful to the residents and indeed the public. It’s taking charge of your life but it does require a lot of effort and there is always someone who is the driving force behind these highly impressive schemes.

From the point of view of an animal advocate like myself it is also hugely beneficial for wildlife. It’s a win-win situation in which people, their companion animals and native wild species can enjoy the natural spaces that these determined people will create.