Hainault Forest is a 225-hectare SSSI on the edge of London and one of the last remnants of the Forest of Essex that once covered hundreds of square miles of south east England. The Hainault Ancient Forest will focus on the restoration of the SSSI and the development of a regional attraction that will support the site becoming financially self-sustaining over a 5 year period.  

Vision Redbridge Culture and Leisure

June 2015 – ongoing

Project Objectives

The project is focusing on the restoration of the SSSI and a transformation of its current status as a site in recovery. In parallel, the project will focus on the development of sub-regional visitor attraction focused on restored Victorian farm buildings and an upgraded model farm offering a variety of educational, play, catering and retail opportunities targeted at enhancing the ‘dwell time’ of visitors.  

 JSA submitted funding applications to the NLHF and the GLA in December 2018 and grants of £4.5 million and £1.2 million have been secured. The JSA design team has been re-appointed to the project that will be developed through 2019. Works on site are anticipated for 2020 and 2021.  

 JSA are acting as Lead Consultant, leading a design team including Thomas Ford and Partners, Huntley Cartwright, Bob Costello Associates, ZMMA, Place Services and Webb Yates. 

Issues, Challenges and Outcomes

Three sections of the Forest of Essex are of specific historical significance. The forests of Hatfield, Epping and Hainault were once all royal hunting grounds and administered under Forest Law from the 11th century. In 1851, an Act of Parliament ‘dis-forested’ Hainault and over the ensuing years, over 10,000 trees were removed from the forest. The pioneering conservationist Edward North Buxton purchased significant areas of the forest in the latter quarter of the 19th century and site was opened as a public park in 1906. 

Today, the Hainault Forest SSSI is in recovery and this project will support this process. The site has the potential to become financially self-sustaining through increasing visitor dwell time but this more intensive pattern of use must be balanced with the need to preserve the quality of natural heritage that is the site’s principal function.  

The site is extremely large and while the focus of activity and capital spend will be on the building hub, the project needs to sustain an identity for the site across its entirety. This also needs to be co-ordinated with work being developed by the Woodland Trust to develop their offer for the part of the site that lies within Essex and is under their management.   


  • Lead Consultant 
  • Landscape Design 
  • Landscape masterplanning 
  • Technical design 
  • Research 
  • Consultation and engagement