Government agencies play an important role as large public landowners, but may face challenges in managing their assets in the most productive way.
Despite the diversity of landscapes government agencies own, many face similar issues when thinking about the future of their environmental assets.
- Landowning government agencies are typically big organisations that own large portions of land. Getting creative, locally specific management strategies in place can prove difficult in this context.
- Big organisational structures also often mean that income produced by an environmental asset is likely to be spread within a central fund and used elsewhere.
- Many government agencies are experiencing reduced funding, making it difficult for them to meet expensive management obligations.
- Agencies often have to perform a mix of commercial, environmental and public benefit roles, and land they own can often remain separate from social and commercial responsibilities.
- The exact role public landowners are to play in the future of UK society is currently being questioned, with much public land being privatised and a reduction in the role of public agencies’ in caring for the UK’s environment.
- The relationship between public landowners and local communities is also shifting, with questions around what public involvement means in practice.
The Forestry Commission has a found a way to tackle these issues through its relationship with Neroche Woodlanders. The Woodlanders operate separately from the Commission, but manage a portion of woodland through a management agreement.
The arrangement has allowed the Woodlanders to develop a more closely set management plan for the area, to bring new forms of funding to the site and to reduce costs for the Commission. Any income that is produced from the land is reinvested back into it, furthering the Woodlanders’ social purpose and retaining income in the local environmental economy.
The Neroche site now links and delivers on the Forestry Commissions’ commercial, social and environmental responsibilities. The land remains in public ownership, but what that means has changed: the land produces health, employment and social opportunities and local people are invited to feel ‘ownership’ of the woodland through productively engaging with it.
Considering the mass of land owned by government agencies, there is huge potential here for shared management arrangements to cut costs, increase land value and deliver on multiple agency objectives. Large though they may seem, local partnerships can make environmental assets work to deliver income and aims, not just things that sit on the books.
You can read our guide or tips for landowners on the all the potential benefits shared management arrangements can produce, or contact us if you would like to have a chat about how we can tailor this approach to you.