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Visitor Facilities at Birchden Wood

Main Ideas and Consensus from the Discussion

The Toilet Block

The overriding consensus was that the toilet block should be kept open for the benefit of all visitors to Birchden Wood and Harrison’s Rocks.  While this was supported by a variety of discussion participants, the largest interest group were climbers.  It was particularly significant to this group as the camp site is dependent on the toilet block.  Harrison’s Rocks is an important climbing site in the south of England, climbers travel to use Harrison’s Rocks and depend on the car park, campsite and toilet.

Local visitors and residents felt the toilet was important to visiting groups such as schools and tourists.  There was concern regarding the mess that occurred when the toilets weren’t available.

(See   for a participant profile)

Management and Maintenance

The challenge of keeping the toilet block, campsite and car park managed and maintained was recognised by a majority of contributors to the discussion which helped generate constructive ideas. 

There was some discussion around membership for use of facilities.  The consensus, though, was that use of the campsite and facilities should be for everyone.  Birchden Wood, where the facilities are located, is part of the Public Forest Estate and has public access, which would restrict a membership scheme being implemented.

There was acceptance that in order to keep the facilities open some form of income generation or charging for use would be required.

There was support for a certain level of development to generate income to maintain the facilities but commercial development on a large scale was felt to be out of character for the area. 

 

Management of the facilities by another organisation

There were a number of ideas on the facilities being managed by another organisation such as a business, the parish council or a community group. 

Community management was one of the most popular themes and an idea posted to discuss a Community Interest Company generated the largest number of comments and highest rating. 

(See for a breakdown of the main ideas and ratings)

 

Other key points raised

-         Participants highlighted the importance of the site in raising awareness of the natural environment and promoting exercise and sport.

-         Concerns were raised at the Drop In session by local residents regarding the risk of cars parking on the road if parking charges are too high.

-         A number of comments noted that the campsite was a memorial to Julie Tullis and there was a Julie Tullis fund.  Julie and Terry Tullis were know for their support of school groups, disadvantaged children and disabled individuals at the rocks and hoped this would be considered as part of the sites future.

 

Proposed next steps

The overall consensus was that the facilities should remain open, there was understanding that revenue needs be raised to fund their operation and maintenance and it was understood that the Forestry Commission are not currently resourced to support this undertaking.

 

The options highlighted within the discussion were for the FC to facilitate the operation and maintenance of the facilities through either a community group or through an appropriate business enterprise.  The Forestry Commission accepts this as a potentially viable solution and we will now establish a process for how we select the best and most appropriate partnership to secure the most viable future for the toilet block and campsite.  We expect to be able to provide details on this process by the 14th February 2014.

England's Woods and Forests are cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission.