THE man behind one of Cumbria’s biggest tourist attractions has launched a stinging attack on councillors for blocking his £4 million plan to almost treble its size.
David Gill, who runs the multi -award winning South Lakes Wild Animal Park, at Dalton-in-Furness, has accused Barrow Borough Council of ‘stifling’ entrepreneurial spirit in the Furness area.
He believes his project would – * create 45 new jobs * bring elephants and ‘big cats’ such as jaguars to the park for the first time * improve housing for existing animals * add a children’s farm * revamp visitor facilities, including a large car park and a new steam train to take visitors around the park Mr Gill is frustrated that the council has not ruled on his planning application after a year – although it is minded to reject it.
Now he has asked the Government’s planning inspectorate to intervene and make a decision.
The borough council’s planning committee believes the project would be an over-development of a greenfield site and cause traffic problems for residents of Melton Terrace, off the A590, where the new entrance would be located.
And it says that part of the reason it has taken so long to resolve the matter is because some of the application details were not clear enough.
Mr Gill, 50, who set up the park 17 years ago, said: “I have lived here all my life and these councillors are the most backward-looking people you could come across.
“How a positive project, which would create jobs and bring more people to the area in such desperate economic times as these, could be refused beggars belief.”
He added: “At the moment we have four different car parks and up to 4,000 people a day trying to cross a busy 60mph road to get to the park. With our new plans we could have them all on one piece of land.”
And he warned that the zoo, which is one of Cumbria’s top five visitor attractions, would stagnate if it did not grow.
“In this day and age, if you don’t go forwards you are going backwards.”
The zoo is already home to a variety of animals, including giraffes, rhinos, lions and lemurs and runs two animal conservation charities which aim to protect vulnerable species such as Sumatran tigers.
Mr Gill’s plan has been backed by Cumbria Tourism managing director Ian Stephens, who said: ''The park provides one of many good reasons for visiting the Furness peninsula and has brought important benefits into the area in terms of employment, and tourist expenditure.
“The expansion plans are to be encouraged and have a close fit with the tourism strategy for Cumbria. We're sure that most people will be in favour of bringing increased employment and income to the area and as such we hope that the planning issues can be overcome".
John Millar, chairman of Dalton with Newton Parish Council, which opposed the plans, said councillors were not against expansion or creating jobs but were worried about access.
“We are concerned about traffic flow and the impact this could have on the surrounding rural area,” he said Coun Ann Thomson, chairman of Barrow’s planning committee told the Gazette: “We are not in the business of stifling entrepreneurialism – we wouldn’t dream of doing that.”
She said members had particular concerns that the car park would ‘stand out like a sore thumb’ on the hillside and it was still unclear how it would be masked by landscaping.
Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock said: “Safety should never be compromised, but I hope these concerns can be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.
“The wildlife park is one of this area’s big-pull attractions with lots of potential to expand and create more jobs in the years ahead.”
The final decision will be made by secretary of state for local government and communities Eric Pickles following advice from the planning inspectorate.
A ruling is likely to be made next spring.
The eight short-listed design teams have been announced for a competition to redevelop the Windermere Steamboat Museum on the shores of Windermere.
The Lakeland Arts Trust recently secured initial support for a £7.4m Heritage Lottery Fund bid, including £494,000 development funding, to take the project forward. The project aims to create an exciting and active museum which will use the lake and the lakeside setting to display the nationally significant collection of steam launches, motor boats, yachts and other vessels which are all associated with Windermere.
The first stage of the competition attracted 114 expressions of interest. The short-list (in order of the architect leading the multi-disciplinary design team) is as follows: Carmody Groarke; Adam Khan Architects; Niall McLaughlin Architects; Terry Pawson Architects; Reiach and Hall Architects; 6a Architects; Sutherland Hussey Architects; Witherford Watson Mann Architects.
Martin Ainscough, Chairman of the Lakeland Arts Trust, commented: “We are very encouraged by the quality of entries in the architectural competition and the judging panel had a difficult decision to select the final eight for the shortlist. We are looking forward to working with the successful practice to create a world class facility in the heart of the Lake District..”
Gordon Watson, the trust’s chief executive, added: “We are looking for a fresh, well-detailed and sensitive response for the stimulating and highly significant site on Windermere and to display the museum's wonderful collection of boats.”
The second stage of the competition will seek design concepts for the project. Architects will need to take into account the requirement of displaying the boats and other items in the collection in the exhibition space and wet dock, and enabling visitors to see the boats being restored in the conservation workshop, as well as designing an appropriate facility for the location to provide a world-class visitor experience.
The design proposals will be subject to public display and comment in late October 2011 and the design teams will be invited to present their schemes to the jury panel at final interviews in late November 2011.
Tuesday 5th April 2011
‘VERY knowledgable’ staff at a popular Kendal attraction are celebrating after securing a top accreditation.
Kendal Museum has been accredited as a Quality Assured Visitor Attraction - an assessment run by Visit England and recognises customer service and visitor experience at attractions across the country.
A Visit England assessor praised the strong collections, recognising the effort that has gone into creating a well-balanced wildlife gallery and the considerable effort that has been put into modernising the Wainwright Gallery.
In a report, the assessor said of the museum: “The Wildlife Gallery succeeds in presenting specimens from five continents in an imaginative and lively fashion that can be readily grasped by children”.
Learning facilities for children were also praised along with ‘excellent’ reading books being available.
The Wainwright Gallery was also commended for its cabinets and the assessor said that the staff ‘engaged well and were very knowledgeable’.
The assessor summed up his judgement and reported: “There is a wealth of excellent material in the museum – with the Wildlife Gallery and the Wainwright exhibits showing what can be achieved. The possibilities for mutually beneficial exchanges of skills with college courses and museum qualifications seem exciting. There is huge potential scope for the Museum.”
10:10am Wednesday 6th April 2011
A POPULAR visitor attraction in Bowness is in the running for a prestigious award for excellence.
Blackwell, The Arts and Crafts House project by Lakeland Arts Trust – one of Britain's finest surviving arts and crafts house by M.H.Baillie Scott - has been shortlisted from hundreds of entries for an award at the national Museums and Heritage Awards for Excellence.
Comedienne and broadcaster Sue Perkins will announce the 11 lucky winners at a ceremony at Westminister on May 11.
The Awards applaud projects ranging from groundbreaking achievements of national institutions to those crafted with limited resources and budget and winners will be selected by a panel of judges including Diane Lees, Director General, Imperial War Museums and Sam Mullins, Director, London Transport Museum and other leading sector professionals.