National Trust backs ‘sustainable’ Bewilderwood plan

The chairman of Tatton Park and the advisor to the National Trust in the North West have written jointly to Cheshire East Council explaining their reasons for supporting the controversial Bewilderwood plans for a children's theme park in the grounds of the ancient estate.

The letter was written by Cllr George Walton, chairman of Tatton Park board, and Prof James Keaton, chairman of National Trust North West advisory board. The authors set out the ownership and management structure of Tatton Park before arguing for the 125-acre play area, proposed by Bure Valley Adventures.

The letter said: "We believe that Bewilderwood will be successful in bringing more families to enjoy Tatton Park and is a bespoke development for Tatton Park. We have very carefully scrutinised the proposed plans for Bewilderwood and the detail of the Environmental Impact Assessment. We are now satisfied with these proposals but also that wider benefits will be secured for the conservation management of the whole estate through Bewilderwood subject to it receiving planning permission."

 BewilderwoodAn initial planning application was made by Bure Valley in April 2012 but was later withdrawn as objections from residents in and around Knutsford grew. The revised planning application was submitted earlier this month but has not gone live for public viewing yet. The letter is a response to the initial application filed under "comments from members of the public".

Objectors such as the Save Tatton Action Group claim the development would destroy ancient woodland and historic arable land, and that extra traffic would harm the tranquillity of the park and surrounding area and that the public consultation was not adequate. They also object to the proposed £6.5m loan by Cheshire East Council to Bure Valley, which claims it cannot borrow commercially as it is a family trust. The council said its loan would generate a return in future years and reduce the amount of subsidy needed to maintain the park, on which it has a 99-year lease from the National Trust which began in 1961.

The letter from Tatton Park and National Trust continued: "The proposed attraction would be a significant contributor to Tatton's sustainable future, an approach that has been endorsed by the National Trust, which has also considered the proposals in the context of the estate's significances, its 'spirit of place' and the context under which it was left to the nation by the last Lord Egerton.

"Much has been prepared in respect to the longer term planning for restoration, improvement or conservation of the estate and its collections. Without growth in net income, the capacity to deliver these improvements, rather than to simply seek to maintain currency standards, is extremely limited."

The planning committee is currently scheduled to meet to discuss the application on Wednesday 19 June.

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