Not for Profit

New Forest charity aims to ensure a future for Foxlease as a community asset

By Sam Pither [email protected]

Published: September 28, 2023 | Updated: 27th October 2023

Earlier this year, Girlguiding announced it would be closing five of its activity centres and looking to sell them.

One of the sites the organisation is looking to sell is Foxlease in the New Forest.

In an effort to keep the centre as a community asset, a number of people in the local community have come together to form Foxie’s Future, a charity which hopes to purchase the site when it comes up for sale and then keep it as a community asset.

Emma Stevens, one of the charity’s supporters, explained: “We’re really keen for it to become a community site again.

“It’s already open for use by the community, but the marketing of this could perhaps be better. If we’re successful in purchasing it we think the only way sites like this are going to prosper is if they are community sites, aimed at lots of different groups so they have lots of different income streams.”

This, of course, requires money, which is why Foxie’s Future has set up a crowdfunding campaign which has an initial target of £90,000.

“This would go towards the initial deposit for the centre, then we think the total price will probably be around £2-3 million – though we’ll know more further down the line. Then within the first year we’re expecting it will cost at least another £500,000 to £1 million as we develop its offering to the community.

“We’re hoping the majority of the funding will come from corporate donations, grant funding and institutional funding rather than crowdfunding.”

One thing the charity has in its favour is that New Forest District Council has designated Foxlease as an asset of community value, which means Girlguiding will have to give notice of their intention to sell to the council.

Once this notice has been given, community groups have six weeks to declare they have an intention to purchase the site, which then triggers a six-month moratorium on sales.

“The process is intended to support community groups to keep assets for the local community.

“Our belief is that running it as a single site, with engagement from the local community, will be much easier than running it as part of a collective.

“We’re confident that if you’re dealing with Foxlease as a proposition on its own, and you can get the local community engaged, it’s much easier to make that viable.

Kayaking at Foxlease

“We’ve had some positive provisional conversations with Girlguiding, so we understand the position they’re in.

“It has huge potential for a lot of different things, but that will become clearer further down the line. And we’re really keen to engage with the local community to find out what they would want to use it for.

“It also has a really good international following from the US, because the site was originally gifted by an American over 100 years ago. We’d probably like to rebuild that again, as it’s a really good potential income stream.

“We’re looking for any help in any form at the moment. Immediate need is crowdfunding, match funding, assistance to raise awareness.

“We currently have a hashtag #haveyouheardaboutfoxlease, which is mostly in Girlguiding and other youth groups at the moment, but we’re hoping to get it spread a bit further afield.

“If people come in with relevant experience, then the current trustees are open to appointing others. Really, any help people can offer us would be welcome.”

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