Cllr Roy Emmett, Cllr Jas Athwal and Cllr Mark Santos
Cllr Roy Emmett, Cllr Jas Athwal and Cllr Mark Santos

Redbridge Council has successfully bid for £4.2M worth of funding from The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). This includes development funding of £218,800, for Hainault Forest Country Park’s ‘Hainault Ancient Forest – a Landscape for the Future’ project.

Plans are now progressing to restore and reinvigorate the historic landscape in the heart of the London Borough of Redbridge. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect the Forest and provide a more secure future by putting in place a range of new activities, including skills and training opportunities, to enhance people’s experience of the area.

The Council will also invest an extra £1.25m into the project with a further £250,000 from Vision Redbridge Culture and Leisure. This brings total investment to £5.7M.

The Leader of Redbridge Council, Cllr Jas Athwal, commented, “This is fantastic news for Hainault and for the whole of Redbridge. Hainault Forest Country Park is one of our iconic parks and this generous funding will enable us to upgrade the space and protect the park for many generations to come. I want to thank the many people involved in winning this funding, especially our three Hainault Councillors, Cllr Roy Emmett, Cllr Mark Santos, and Cllr Joe Hehir – without their hard work this would not have been possible.”

Councillor Sheila Bain, Cabinet Member for Planning & Planning Enforcement, said, “This is incredible news and represents months of tireless work. We greatly appreciate this support from HLF and look forward to preserving the legacy of Hainault Forest for many years to come.

“Hainault Forest is a beautiful area which provides residents and visitors a special place to relax and unwind and enjoy fantastic natural surroundings.”

Covering a total of 800 acres, Hainault Forest includes 250 acres of greenbelt, ancient woodland and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). It is the last fragment of a medieval Royal hunting forest established by Henry I that included Hatfield and Epping.

In the last quarter of the 19th century, conservationist Edward North Buxton preserved the Royal forests and this project will help preserve his legacy. It will focus on four keys areas – investment into the SSSI, landscape and buildings, works to re-focus the popular children’s zoo and a great range of activities on offer for visitors.

The forest is also pivotal for local and regional wildlife. To date 158 species of bird have been recorded in the forest including turtle doves, bullfinches, and three species of woodpecker. There are also more than 940 species of invertebrates such as butterflies and dragon flies, 79 of which are nationally scarce.

Ros Kerslake, CEO of HLF, said: “Hainault Ancient Forest is both a wildlife haven and the backdrop to the lives of a large and diverse local population. The Forest is now at a crossroads where it’s in desperate need of investment to avoid further deterioration. Thanks to National Lottery players, we’re helping give this special part of urban Redbridge a chance to survive and thrive.”

Councillor Bain added, “The investment will allow Redbridge to more effectively protect habitats and species that are currently in decline. It will also offer much more to visitors who will be able to enjoy the adapted historic buildings and our popular zoo, which will be modified to a centre for the captive breeding of UK native species that are under threat.

“It’s a very exciting project that draws its inspiration from the rich history of the area.”

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