We have created a social enterprise called a Community Benefit Society (CBS), which applies commercial strategies to maximise community and environmental benefits. This short video explains our governance approach.
We received excellent help from the Plunkett Foundation’s ‘Make Local Woodlands Work’ programme, which offered us critical support in deciding on a suitable legal framework for the project.
We decided to become a Community Benefit Society (CBS) because it is the most democratic option for a project like this. Anyone can become a member as long as they buy one £50 share. Each member gets one vote, so no one person can ever dominate the decision-making process.
Initial Members Shares were offered in Autumn 2018. We currently have around 50 Members and hold an Annual Members Meeting each autumn.
The CBS Management Committee
Members of the CBS vote for (and can stand to be) members of the Management Committee which makes decisions on and directs the strategy and day-to-day activities of the woodland. Current Members of the CBS are:
Craig Parker – Chairperson
Craig is a qualified accountant. He lives in Brighton and is married with two children. He is a keen surfer, cyclist and triathlete. Craig joined the Management Committee as Chairperson in April 2021.
Kris Szaniawski – Secretary
I am a Lewes-based woodland volunteer with a love of the Weald and the South Downs. Having got to know the local woods through voluntary work and outdoor learning courses I came to appreciate their beauty and it made me want to become more closely involved in the community that manages them and the exciting regeneration project that is Laughton Greenwood CBS. I was lucky to grow up in a family that had a close affinity with woods and wildlife. At a formative age I visited one of the last remaining primeval forests in Europe, this glimpse into a parallel world remains a strong memory and has made me passionate about supporting biodiversity, wildlife recovery and resilience. I’m a member of the Woodland Trust, Sussex Wildlife Trust and Royal Forestry Society and regularly attend woodland management training courses run by the RFS, Plumpton College and others.
She is Founder and Managing Director of Circle of Life Rediscovery CIC and The Outdoor Teacher Ltd, organisations that aim to transform education and health through nature. Laughton Greenwood CBS brings together all my passions – love of the land, opportunity to increase access for vulnerable groups and be part of an exciting pioneer regeneration project that we hope will be championed in multiple ways! I am an advocate for the integration of environmental, education and health and wellbeing services, and am committed to finding ways to live well with nature.
Marina Robb was voted onto the MC in 2018.
I grew up playing outside in the Ouse Valley, with parents who instilled in me a deep love of the natural world and an awareness of the threats it faces. I have a background in youth work, writing and communications, and campaigning, and have been involved in many organisations. I am also trustee of a youth arts charity. I now work as a gardener as well as for the global ecological justice organisation http://www.terra-justa.org. Being involved in the CBS is a fascinating experience which is allowing me to learn a huge amount about the complexities of understanding and managing the relationships between human communities and their environments.
Mads Ryle was voted onto the MC in 2018.
Roger Ross – landowner
Hi. I’m an elder, who is passionate about the environment and community…currently working on connecting up the many levels of interacting with the natural world, I live on the Downs south of Lewes in happy valley. I was born in Chelsea and escaped from London in 96… I’m still connected to the auction business in started in 79. I have the privilege of working with so many charities and social businesses.
Roger was voted onto the MC in 2018
I was brought up on the outskirts of a Lancashire town and was very fortunate to have access to woods and moorlands. At age 17, I came to London as a Civil Servant, then joined the airline BEA/BA and later formed a Travel Management company. My interests then were mainly sea-going, walking and cycling. Having retired, I joined the now Laughton Green CBS.Two years later, I still enjoy being involved in a project that is restoring these splendid woods, which also satisfies my interest in birds and wildlife (RSPB). I feel privileged to be part of a keen, bright team, particularly as l am not on the doorstep, being domiciled in London or Hastings.
Gordon was voted into the MC in 2018.
Having a local Woodland to go to, with a rich diversity of Trees/Wildlife and Community is something I really value. I have also been coming to these woods for many different events, work and personal fitness times over the years and have seen the woodland change in many ways.The benefits of having this relationship in my life is what first inspired me to become a Member and Shareholder. After a few years of deepening this connection and finding out more, I could really begin to appreciate the importance of Humans being in ‘right relationship’ to the Natural World. Over time, I began to witness how a careful and well thought management plan could provide more opportunities for further growth and diversity; not only in the landscape and wildlife, but in the diversity of local people wanting to connect and enjoy the Woodland. I have since felt inspired to become a new Committee Member and hope that I can support local people in feeling the same way that I do about the Woods.
Charlie was co-opted onto the MC in the summer of 2020
Kia Ora! I’m Hannah, 23, and on an OE from New Zealand after finishing my Development Studies degree last year. Since being in the UK I’ve developed a passion for gardening, and I’ve been volunteering at Rodmell Food Forest since December 2019. I’ve been studying two RHS papers to improve my knowledge in the field since May. My motivation to join the CBS is to contribute to the preservation of green spaces, boost the CV, and interest in the therapeutic benefits of being outdoors and connected to nature. I’m excited to meet new people and get stuck into future projects!
Hannah was co-opted onto the MC in the summer of 2020