Wiltshire Publications

Longleat access meeting fails to impress

LOCAL people have expressed their anger at the stance taken by Longleat estate in banning walkers and cyclists through previously accessed estate land.

They say they are disappointed by a public meeting between estate representatives and local people which was held in Warminster on 13th March.Local resident Miles Peyton, who attended the meeting said, “It is infuriating. I thought the meeting was going to be very open but what we had was Longleat telling us what is going to happen. They jumped around questions from cyclists and walkers and never really provided a suitable answer.“Longleat are saying that you will still be able to access 90 per cent of the grounds, but it’s that 10 per cent that needs to be accessed. As a keen cyclist I use the Longleat estate a lot. When I’m not cycling to work I utilise the grounds as they are far safer than using the roads. “It’s also the safety of my children. There are no places that you can cycle though like Longleat and my son was very upset to hear of the news that we may not be able to cycle in Longleat any more.“The meeting was held in Warminster and not Frome but this is an issue that impacts on the people of Frome just as much as Warminster.“I do not think Longleat has taken into account the unquantifiable impact to the community this decision could have and the reputation this could give the estate.”Two hundred people, including many keen cyclists, had attended the meeting at Warminster Civic Centre which was held in response to public anger about the changes to estate access for members of the public. Three representatives of Longleat estate, David Bradley (CEO), Richard Bailey (head of marketing) and the Viscount Weymouth, Ceawlin Thynn, attended the meeting.An hour-long presentation was given about the estate by David Bradley who said, “It is clear we are changing a lot of things.”Another local resident, who described the meeting as “a bit of stitch-up” said, “Virtually no time at all was given to public access and the specific issue of cyclist access to the park. The structure of the event meant that it was nearly impossible to present a coherent argument against Longleat’s plans. I don’t think this is entirely David Bradley or Longleat’s fault as there are a large number of serious issues raised by Longleat’s new access rules.  “The public had just a minute or two each to state their concerns before the mic was passed to someone else.“The only reason the meeting was called at all was because Longleat’s recent attitude to local people has been so reprehensible that a damage limitation exercise had to be instigated to limit any possible fall in sales in tickets and passes at this crucial time.“Although I’m entirely opposed to the new access policy as it currently stands on grounds of principle, I am specifically concerned about the threat to cyclists posed by the likely removal by Longleat of the through-route across the estate that has been long used by cyclists wishing to avoid the two very busy and dangerous roads on either side of the park. “I think the truth is that, like the people who were concerned about the loss of foot-access, cyclists do not represent an immediate and obvious revenue stream so they are considered irrelevant. It cannot be beyond possibility for Longleat to allow road access by bike across the landscaped park between the three access points located at the main gate, at Horningsham and at East Woodlands. If Longleat did this it would go at least some way to repairing the enormous damage Longleat has already done to its reputation. If they can include a concession to walkers too, I might even re-consider buying a pass.”Representatives of Longleat said that existing national cycle routes through the estate would remain open for the time being while alternative routes with Sustrans and other interested parties were being discussed.