Letter to CambridgePPF members from Chairman, Robin Pellew
Review of visitor, estate maintenance and conservation services:
Since we re-launched the charity as Cambridge Past, Present & Future in 2009, the Trustees have overseen a major re-vamp of the organisation’s role and operations. This programme has included clarifying its future purpose and objectives through a five-year strategic plan, a significant expansion of its planning watchdog activities, and more recently the re-structuring of the senior staff and admin team to reflect our three main focus areas: Properties and Green Spaces; Planning; and Education.
The final phase of this re-organisation has involved a comprehensive review of how best to manage the heritage properties and green spaces in our care, so as to be more responsive to the needs of our visitors. This review covers the management of Wandlebury Country Park and Coton Countryside Reserve as well as all our heritage properties, the Leper Chapel and the mills at Hinxton and Bourn.
One of the reasons for our review lies in the fact that Cambridge is changing rapidly. Thousands of new homes are planned for the area over the next fifteen years, including major developments close to our properties. This growth will inevitably increase the number of people that want to visit Wandlebury and Coton for outdoor recreation – something we must anticipate and prepare for if the peace and tranquillity of these special places is not to suffer. Obviously we must continue to safeguard the nature and conservation values of our sites, and in the case of Wandlebury its status as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. But at the same time we must also plan for an increase in footfall and visitor demands.
Thousands of people visit Wandlebury and Coton reserves every year. To maintain the conservation status of these special places we must consider very carefully how best they should be managed. We have cared for Wandlebury Country Park for 60 years. Over that time, our work has evolved as models for managing such sites have changed. Visitor expectations have also changed, reflected in the most recent phase of our reorganisation. We now need more staff, visible at our main sites at peak times, like weekends and the long summer evenings, and fewer mid-week in winter. This means adopting a more flexible and responsive way of working, with more part-time wardens on duty when needed.
Over the last two months we have been consulting our staff about how best to achieve this. Their views and ideas were actively sought to inform any decision-making. After considerable reflection, during which the pros and cons of a range of proposals were examined in detail, the Board has decided that the most practical option is for the charity to put in place a new flexible structure, based around a single full-time warden, supported by a team of part-time wardens, who will work across all our properties.
This approach will provide us with the flexibility we need to continue to offer the public the same level of access to all our properties that they enjoy at present, whilst enabling us to accommodate wide-ranging changes in seasonal demand and an overall increase in visitor numbers as Cambridge itself grows.
With a more versatile staffing structure we will be able to manage all the heritage properties and green spaces in our care, and deliver our environmental and historical education programme, in a way that is more responsive to visitor needs and which maintains our uncompromising commitment to wildlife conservation, heritage, landscape management and public access. Regrettably, this re-organisation does affect three full-time rangers currently in post. We are working closely with the individuals affected, who have been consulted about the review outcome and invited to apply for the new role being created.
We also want to let you know that we have recently initiated a comprehensive ecological survey of Wandlebury Country Park. A newly appointed ecologist is coordinating this project and leading a working group of local conservation experts. We are also working with a highly respected landscape architect to develop an illustrated landscape plan for the Ring area. These two projects will inform the development of a robust, forward-looking management plan for Wandlebury based on a sound understanding of the site. The plan will help us balance the wildlife habitat of the park, its archaeological interest and the beauty of the landscape, while maximising the safety and enjoyment of our visitors. We are actively seeking volunteers and conservation experts who would like to assist in this work. If you are interested in getting involved, please get in touch.
As a member of CambridgePPF, I have no doubt that you feel passionately – as I do – about the properties and green spaces that we own, especially Wandlebury, which is a marvellous place for people of all ages to enjoy. Can I take this opportunity to assure you that the Trustees and staff remain wholly committed to protecting the special character and ambience of Wandlebury?
We cannot ignore the increasing pressures on our properties and carry on as before. To allow any of our properties to be degraded through a lack of foresight would be a dereliction of duty by the charity’s Trustees. CambridgePPF must change how it works. We must remain relevant to the needs of the public both in terms of our ability to influence the future growth and development of the Greater Cambridge area, and in satisfying the recreation and enjoyment needs of visitors to our properties. It is this responsibility to our members and the wider public that lies behind the changes, which we believe are both timely and necessary.
As our work progresses we will be organising a series of meetings to give our members the chance to find out more about our properties and how we are planning for their future. Further details will be circulated in due course.
Finally, I would like to thank you wholeheartedly for your continued support as a CambridgePPF member. It’s thanks to your commitment and generosity that we can continue to safeguard Wandlebury and all of our sites as peaceful havens for wildlife and special places for thousands of people to enjoy now and in the years to come.
With best wishes
Dr Robin Pellew OBE