Letter to Cambridge News from Chairman, Robin Pellew
The Future of Wandlebury
As your editorial of 5th December says, any change to the way Wandlebury is managed will inevitably cause debate, so it is important that people are aware of the facts.
Wandlebury is a very special place. Its beauty, wildlife, and above all the peace and tranquillity it offers are loved by the people of Cambridge. It is a magical place for family picnics, children’s hide-and-seek, and Sunday afternoon dog walks. So why do we want to change the way it’s managed?
The threat to this wonderful place comes not from CambridgePPF – which has diligently cared for Wandlebury for sixty years – but from the massive amount of new development in and around the city. The local plan currently being considered proposes 33,000 new houses in the Greater Cambridge area, the equivalent of about four new towns. There is development at Trumpington Meadows, Clay Farm, Glebe Farm, the Bell School, Addenbrooke’s Biomedical Campus, and now possibly Wort’s Causeway, all on the doorstep of Wandlebury.
The result of all this development will be a deluge of visitors to Wandlebury. So we need now to put in place the mechanisms to manage this increased pressure whilst maintaining the special character and ambience of the place.
For the charity, this means changing the way our properties are staffed. We believe we will need many more staff on the ground at peak times, like week-ends and summer evenings, and fewer at slack times, like mid-week in winter. We want to encourage more visitors, especially young families, to our properties so we must have more staff visible on-site to interact with them and help them enjoy our parks safely.
This is what the review is about – how we protect our special places from being overwhelmed by a sudden increase in visitor numbers. What it means in practical terms is striking a careful balance between land and visitor management, and we are now in active dialogue with our Ranger staff to get their ideas and opinions before any decision is made.
Whatever the outcome of our review we must of course maintain the conservation value of our properties. That’s why we are working with a number of organisations and individuals to undertake a base-line ecological survey to strengthen our conservation management.
As well as being a country park that everyone loves, Wandlebury is also a Scheduled Ancient Monument because of its 5thC BC Iron Age fort. As a designated site, we have to manage it in collaboration with the government agencies, English Heritage and Natural England. For some years there has been a debate going on about their demand that the trees on the Ring be cleared, as they are perceived to be causing damage to the Monument. As managers of the park, we ultimately have little option but to comply with their request, but as a compromise we have agreed to create a landscape plan of the Ring area. This work will come forward with a number of options that we believe will help balance the wildlife habitat of the park, the underlying archaeology, the safety of our visitors, and the peace and tranquillity of the site, which everyone holds in such great esteem. Helping us create the plan is a highly experienced landscape architect who has done similar work along the Cambridge Backs and for the Colleges.
I would like to reassure everybody who loves Wandlebury – and the other properties that we care for – that we are not going to desecrate these hallowed places. What we are trying to do is protect them by planning responsibly for their future.