End of the road for popular Havering environmental group?

A POPULAR Havering community project faces closure if vital funds are not secured from councils it has been warned.

The Thames Chase Community Forest, based in Pike Lane, Upminster, is a 40-year scheme tasked with improving 40 square miles of woodland covering parts of east London and south-west Essex.

Now staff are desperately urging the local community to write to their MPs and councillors to keep the project from being sunk.

Funded by five local authorities, including Havering Council, it is feared the enterprise will fall foul of swingeing budget cuts being devised by the councils.

The project, which employs five full-time staff, needs around �200k a year to stay afloat, but staff say funds could dry up as early as March this year.

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“We have been waiting since August to find out if we will be getting the funding,” said Trustee Mary Wright said, “but we are not hopeful.

“We are working hard to continue the work we are doing but we’re already down to the bare bones in terms of staffing. I hope people will realise the environmental benefits we have done and want to continue to do in the area.”

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The project is also home to a new visitors’ centre, not yet a year old, which hosts a popular farmers’ market, crafts fair, as well a shop and cafe.

Jewellery stallholder Kirsty Hasley said she would “gutted” if the centre was to close.

“These events are well attended and enjoyed by many from the Havering area,” she added, “so I was shocked to hear that the centre may be lost to us all.

“The volunteers at Thames Chase work really hard to keep the centre going, but without further funding, this will have been a waste.”

The group aims to increase woodland in the Thames Chase by 30 per-cent by 2030.

For further information call the project on: 01708 642970/642975 or email: friend@thameschase.org.uk

Cllr Robert Benham, cabinet member for regeneration, said: “We have always been a supporter of Thames Chase. Due to the significant funding gap we, along with the other three local authorities which support Thames Chase, are reviewing our financial support. No final decision has yet been made.”

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