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Issue 347 – Longleat calls public meeting to discuss access to grounds

LONGLEAT is holding a public meeting this month to allow local people to discuss the recent changes to the estate’s access policy, which has closed some parts of the estate to walkers and cyclists.

The estate has outraged local walkers and cyclists by making access to the central house and garden areas by ticket only, but the estate has defended the reduced access stating insurance conditions, security, and health and safety as the key reasons for the changes.
The public is still allowed unlimited access to the 8,000 acres of the “wider estate”, such as Heaven’s Gate and Shearwater. Longleat also say that the official National Cycle Network routes 24 and 25 will remain open while a review of the cycle routes takes place.
A public meeting will take place on Tuesday 13th March at the Civic Centre in Warminster at 7.00pm (doors open at 6.30pm, with the hall able to hold a limited capacity). The meeting is being held to provide local people with the opportunity to hear about the broader plans for Longleat and discuss the recent changes to the access policy.
David Bradley of Longleat said, “This is an opportunity for the local area to meet the management team at Longleat and discuss and ask any questions they may have.”
A recent statement from Longleat has defended the changes to their access policy. The statement says, “Firstly, we would like to reiterate that the actual area involved in the review represents less than 10% of the total 10,000-acre estate.
“Access to areas like Heaven’s Gate, most of the woodland, Shearwater and the remainder of the estate remain totally unaffected. The review focusses on specific areas of concern which have been identified around Longleat House and the formal, landscaped gardens and attractions.
“Secondly the review is not something we have chosen to do lightly. It is something that we have been forced to address as a matter of urgency. No-one wants to have to make these difficult and potentially unpopular decisions, but sadly we are now at a stage where we no longer have any choice.
“There are three key reasons why the review has had to take place;
“Insurance: Like everyone else Longleat has to demonstrate to our insurers we have taken all reasonable steps to protect and secure our property. Improved control of access to the estate was a prerequisite of any policy.
“Security: We have been advised by the police that our security measures need to be significantly tightened as Longleat is a known target for theft and armed robbery.
“Health and Safety: Areas adjoining Longleat House and the surrounding grounds are home to a wide range of exotic and, potentially, dangerous animals. Recent investments include a major new birds of prey display area, a new gorilla enclosure and other animal-based features.
“In addition to those issues we have also had an ongoing and growing problem with a minority of irresponsible dog walkers who are failing to clear up after their pets and are also refusing to keep them under control in areas close to vulnerable wildlife.
“As a result, we have been forced to look at the best and least restrictive ways to address all these specific and urgent issues.
“As part of the review we are planning to hold additional public consultation meetings, like the one which will take place in March with the local community.
“Once the process has ended, and with the help and advice of local people and the wider community, we very much hope we will be able to come to a conclusion that is accepted and understood by the vast majority of people.
“We want to ensure the long-term future and success of Longleat for the benefit of everyone both here on the estate and throughout the wider community – of which we are all a part.
“Our aim is for local people to be able to continue to enjoy the estate and everything it has to offer in a safe and sustainable way.”