Gresham House is a specialised asset manager. Among its investments are forests it manages in the UK, Australia, and Ireland on behalf of various investors, including institutions, family offices, private clients, and funds. Gresham House purchased a 3,450-acre site in North Ayrshire, Scotland to establish a sustainably managed productive forest that included diverse species, peatland restoration, access for local communities, and a run-of-river hydro scheme.
Despite the site being poor-quality agricultural land with limited biodiversity, the initial tree planting application and environmental assessment took seven years to approve. The active involvement of the surrounding communities accompanied this process. During this period, the Gresham House team and woodland managers met regularly with local groups to discuss all aspects of the scheme. Local community reactions to the site were varied, with access provisions and species diversity high on the list of demands from locals.
In response to community feedback, the management team designed a considerable network of paths throughout the forest and replaced a key footbridge on the footpath network to support community access and recreation. It also planned the forest to incorporate a wide range of tree species to improve the biodiversity of the site, well above the requirements of forestry standards. The forest is now being developed following approval. Trees are in their establishment phase, and the hydro scheme is being expanded to generate more renewable energy for the local area.
Access requirements are constantly being discussed and developed with a Local Access Group, with whom the Gresham House team have built a strong working relationship. In 2022, the Forestry division’s asset and woodland managers had over 140 interactions with local communities, reflecting the commitment to address local communities’ views, where appropriate and to the extent possible, in their forestry activities.
The team’s commitment is to include local communities in all forest development and management actions, engaging them throughout the process and trying to provide for as many competing interests as possible while still ensuring the delivery of investment strategies for their clients.