Charity refutes claims that beauty spot is ‘facing disaster’

5th Dec 2014Coton Countryside ReserveWandlebury Country Park

Following an article in the Cambridge News, local charity Cambridge Past Present & Future, is today refuting claims from local conservationists that the green spaces that it owns and manages are ‘facing disaster’ – and is reiterating its dedication to safeguarding the country parks and historic buildings in our care.

 

While the charity is considering the creation of a new, more flexible staffing structure to manage visitor, estate maintenance and conservation services at the sites that it owns in and around the city – the aim of the review is to increase the number of staff available across all of its properties and guarantee their future with expectations that visitor numbers will rise as Cambridge continues to grow and expand.

 

Robin Pellew, Chairman of Cambridge Past, Present & Future, said: “A consultation is ongoing and while no decisions have been taken we have identified the need to adopt a different way of staffing our properties and carrying out our ranger services to make us more responsive to the needs of our visitors – and increase the number of staff available across all of our sites at peak times.

 

Cambridge is changing rapidly. There are some 33,000 new homes planned for the Greater Cambridge area over the next fifteen years, including major new developments around the Southern Fringe, Addenbrookes, North West Cambridge and now possibly Wort’s Causeway. We expect these to result in a surge in visitor pressures at Wandlebury and at Coton Countryside Reserve, which we must manage if the peace and tranquility of these special places is not to suffer. Obviously we must continue to safeguard the nature conservation and heritage values of our sites, and in the case of Wandlebury its status as a County Wildlife Site and Scheduled Ancient Monument, but at the same time we must be more responsive to the needs of our visitors.

 

Thousands of people visit Wandlebury Country Park and Coton Countryside Reserve every year. To maintain their conservation status and to accommodate a significant rise in visitor numbers means we have to consider very carefully how best they should be managed.  Essentially we need many more staff visible on site at times of peak visitor numbers, like week-ends and the long summer evenings, and fewer on wet Wednesday afternoons in January. This means a more flexible and responsive way of working with many more part-time wardens on duty when needed. This is what the review is about.

 

We cannot ignore the increasing pressures on our properties and carry on as before. To allow any of our properties to be degraded would, in my opinion, be tantamount to a dereliction of duty by the charity’s Board of Trustees. CambridgePPF must change the way it works so that it remains relevant to the needs of the public both in terms of its ability to influence the future growth and development of the Greater Cambridge area, and its role in satisfying the recreation and enjoyment needs of the visitors to its properties. It is this responsibility to our members and the wider public that lies behind the current review, which is both timely and necessary.”

 

As part of the charity’s consultation, conversations with the team affected are ongoing and the charity is actively seeking their views and canvassing their thoughts and ideas to inform any decision-making.

 

In response to claims that the area around The Ring – a Scheduled Ancient Monument – is going to be cleared of trees, CambridgePPF would like to confirm that there are no plans at this stage for any felling.

 

Philip Robson, Head of Properties and Green Spaces, at CambridgePPF, said: “Earlier this year, as part of a balanced programme agreed with both Natural England and English Heritage, a number of trees were removed from the Ring area – those placing our visitors at most risk if they were to fall due to disease and / or voids in their structure.”

 

“At Wandlebury Country Park, we have to strike a careful balance between managing the conservation of the park; the heritage rich archaeology of the site; and the amenity of the landscape – with the health and safety of our visitors top of mind. The Ring and the area within it at Wandlebury Country Park is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, listed by English Heritage. In recent decades, the tree growth on and beside the Ring Ditch has started to damage the Ancient Monument.”

 

“To inform future decision-making, an ecological survey of the entire Country Park is now ongoing. We have appointed a project officer to coordinate this survey who is leading a working group comprising a number of local ecology and conservation experts. From this work our intention is to create an illustrated landscape plan for Wandlebury in conjunction with a first class landscape architect – the outcome of which will need to demonstrate a balanced approach to managing the wildlife habitat of the park; the underlying archaeology; the safety of our visitors; and the peace and tranquility of the site, which everyone holds in great value.”

 

Anyone with any concerns or questions about the review process should contact the team via email.

 

(ends)

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