Rewilding charity Heal, which launched at the start of the pandemic, has just acquired its first landholding of 460 acres near Bruton in Somerset, where it will create a new nature reserve – the first in a series it plans to establish in every English county. David Hobbs from Bevan Brittan’s Bristol office provided pro bono legal advice on the property acquisition with Louise Leaver advising on the banking facility.
The £5.25m site, to be called Heal Somerset, aims to tackle the nature and climate crises while creating new jobs and work for local tradespeople and businesses, with projects to be co-designed and delivered with the local community.
The charity says the site will be a blueprint for establishing a major nature recovery site in all 48 English counties by 2050, together covering almost 25,000 acres.
A series of introductory events has already been held to discuss the project, respond to questions and outline some of the opportunities it could offer local people. Initial project ideas are areas for food growing and nature learning for children, wildflower meadow creation, planting a community orchard, and an indoor meeting space for use by community groups.
Heal expects early benefits of rewilding to include an increase in insect numbers, growth of plants including tree saplings, and a greater abundance and diversity of species.
Commenting on the firm’s pro bono work, David Hobbs explains: “Biodiversity projects like Heal Somerset align with Bevan Brittan’s passion and investment around sustainability so we are proud we could offer our services freely to bring the legal aspects of the deal together and allow this important project to get off the ground.
“Working with the Heal team has been a rewarding and insightful experience and I look forward to seeing how other projects progress as they roll these out across the UK.”
Jan Stannard, Acting CEO & Chair of Trustees at Heal, said: “The added value of Bevan Brittan’s pro bono legal expertise really helped guide us through the complex property acquisition and funding process to make Heal Somerset become a reality. David and the team were dedicated, professional and knowledgeable, guiding us through this complex transaction with plenty of smiles and enthusiasm. We are very grateful for their support.
“The process of rewilding has already begun and though it will take many years for nature to recover, we expect to see positive changes immediately, first small and then more visible within a couple of years. This is just the start of something very exciting for local communities up and down the country.”