Over the last few years we've listened to visitor feedback and have some proposals for improving facilities here at the Earth Trust Centre.
We shared our plans with you earlier this year and want to thank the various focus groups, stakeholder groups and visitors to the public consultation for your input. You enabled us to consider all aspects of the proposals from different perspectives and make the necessary adaptations.
The planning application has now been submitted to South Oxfordshire District Council and we're waiting to hear when the official consultation will take place. We welcome comments on the proposals via SODC's normal planning consultation process.
In response to some recent press coverage regarding the planning application, our Chief Executive Jayne Manley has issued the following statement:
"Earth Trust is the environmental learning charity that owns and manages the heritage assets of the Wittenham Clumps and surrounding farmed landscape. This iconic place is loved by many and we take our guardianship of it very seriously. It receives more visits than any other free to access greenspace in the south east; there has been an increase in visitor numbers and the prediction is, that with more homes and businesses planned within South Oxfordshire, our visitor numbers will go up in future and we need to manage this properly and minimise the impact on the local community and the environment.
"The nature reserve provides a much needed green space for people from miles around to freely enjoy, many of whom don’t have access to such a space in their local community. In order to protect nature, wildlife, the history and the archaeology for future generations to enjoy (as we do now), we need to manage these visitors better and continue to provide opportunities that enable children, families, school groups and grown ups to gain a deeper connection with the world that protects and nurtures us all.
"Our plans have been developed over the last three years, recognising the pressures we are facing now (and in years to come) and balancing them against the importance of the landscape and environment that we continue to protect. We have involved the local community and visitors, as well as statutory bodies and stakeholders. Our neighbours and local communities were involved as the plans were developed; their views were taken into account throughout this process and the proposals submitted are the best options for tackling the very real issues that the Wittenham Clumps and surrounding nature reserve are facing.
"We held a public consultation during the summer and received huge support from our diverse range of visitors who welcomed the proposals, which reshape access to the Wittenham Clumps, providing much safer access, improved car parking (away from the scheduled ancient monument), toilet facilities, a café and small farmshop
. Many of our visitors have been requesting these improvements for a number of years, which was confirmed by 88% of the visitors who left us feedback at the consultation exhibition, telling us that the proposed improvements looked exciting and interesting and they couldn’t wait to visit! The plans also include much needed improvements to our teaching facilities; we already welcome over 4,000 children and school groups from across Oxfordshire and we’re proposing two dedicated fit for purpose classrooms along with outdoor features that bring the history of the site to life – three roundhouses and a small outdoor meeting/teaching and performance space (amphitheatre)."