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Calls for cash boost to open up ‘hidden woodland gems’ to public rejected

Calls for £30,000 to make “hidden gems” of woodland available as public parks have been shot down, w..

By admin , in Cambridge , at February 26, 2018

Calls for £30,000 to make “hidden gems” of woodland available as public parks have been shot down, with the council saying it was working on opening up the areas anyway.

In an amendment to the city council’s budget last week, the Lib Dems asked for £30,000 to open up the woodland areas as parks for the public.

It was argued that new access to the woodland will ease pressure on existing local nature reserves and provide opportunities for environmental education measures.

The five areas include the triangle area near Bramblefield Nature Reserve in East Chesterton, a patch of woods behind houses on Walpole Road in Cherry Hinton and a strip of land next to Highfield Avenue in West Chesterton. Other identified sites are the former bird sanctuary at Cherry Hinton Hall and The Spinney in Cherry Hinton.

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Lib Dem spokeswoman on open spaces Cllr Ysanne Austin said: “The community woodlands scheme, I think, is a real opportunity for people in our city – it is a hidden gem that has been lost.

“They are on the doorstep of areas and people don’t even know about them because they are not accessible. So we have a wonderful opportunity across the city to open up five community woodland areas and, in addition to the immediate benefits for East Chesterton, King’s Hedges, and Cherry Hinton where these five are located, they can be accessible to all.

'These places are unknown gems'

“I do appreciate the value of forest schools and the forest school movement has had a huge impact on children’s well-being, on their confidence, on their physical, on their emotional, on their educational, and their environmental development and understanding.

The Triangle area, near the Bramblefields Nature Reserve, East Chesterton (Image: Keith Jones)

“The places are unknown gems. We can open these spaces up to community groups so that they can be hired for groups of children just in the way our community centres are, and they can start to appreciate the urban wildlife and flora and fauna.”

Cllr Anna Smith, the city council’s executive councillor for streets and open spaces, said a review was currently underway into improving the streets and open spaces budget, and that options to improve the service offered would “always be considered”.

Cllr Anna Smith

She said the council was fully committed “both to trees and to community open spaces”, and that they were “committed to extending access to all sorts of hidden places” in the city.

It's “an extension of what we are already doing”

She said she was delighted the Lib Dems supported the idea of opening hidden woodlands to the public, but said she would not recommend a specific budget bid because she believed it was “an extension of what we are already doing”, and that funding could be found from existing funds and grants.

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“I think we can all agree on the importance of these community woodland projects,” said Cllr Smith.

Cllr Rod Cantrill said the Lib Dem amendment would make a critical difference to city residents’ lives, and said it would secure a “better future” for the people of Cambridge.

Cllr John Hipkin said he wished the debate could be “depoliticised” and said many sensible suggestions should be agreed on rather than “squabbled over” for “political point scoring”.

The Lib Dem amendment was voted down by the council. When the community woodlands item was voted on individually, 12 councillors were for the proposals, and 24 were against, so the suggestion was voted down.

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