Thames Chase Community Forest: Tories STOP Funding

January 22, 2011 9:57 AM

Liberal Democrat Leader Cllr David Kendall has slammed a decision made by the Tories running Brentwood not to give Thames Chase Community Forest any funding for the next financial year. He fears the decision could be a catalyst for other Councils to pull out their funding and leave Thames Chase facing serious financial difficulties going forward.

Since 2000, Brentwood has contributed nearly £200,000 to the Thames Chase project, with Havering, Thurrock and Barking & Dagenham contributing similar amounts. During that time Essex County Council has given around a £1 million and Thames Chase has attracted £8 million from other external funding. All this money has been spent on schemes within these Council areas and Brentwood has benefited a great deal particularly with work in Warley Park and Clements Park.

Thames Chase were looking for a contribution of £18,000 from Brentwood for the next financial year but when the Tories proposed nothing, Cllr Kendall suggested a figure of £9,500 was given instead but this was turned down.

Cllr Kendall said

"Whilst I know the Borough Council has got to make some tough financial decisions because of the deficit and our settlement this is not the time to be abandoning Thames Chase.

"We could have made a much smaller contribution compared to previous years and shown our ongoing commitment and support for the whole project as they have done some great work in our Borough over many years.

"The Tories talk a good game on the Environment and Green Issues but this decision shows that when it comes to backing that talk with hard cash they are sadly lacking.

"I just hope that other Councils don't follow Brentwood's example and cease their funding otherwise Thames Chase could be facing real difficulties."

Some of Thames Chase Forest's achievements include:

  • Securing over £8 million of external investment
  • Planting over 1.5 million trees
  • Doubling the amount of public open space
  • Creation or bringing into management of over 1,200 acres of meadows and wetlands
  • Creation or bringing into management of 90 kilometres of all weather paths for cyclists, horse riders and walkers
  • Planting over 34 kilometres of hedgerows

Cllr Karen Chilvers, who led the campaign to Save Thorndon Park five years ago, said:

"I realise money is tight, but we need to invest in a sustainable future. But, then, it's just another classic example of the Tories talking the talk but failing to walk the walk. They could have reduced funding for the year after discussion with Thames Chase Community Forest over what were the most essential maintenance programmes that are needed for this year and supported those.

"Four years ago, the Tories led a massive pre-election campaign promising Brentwood residents parking concessions in Thorndon Park. Despite setting up another committee, this is another environmental Tory promise that failed to materialise."