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TV Chris Packham criticises Lake District plan
2:00pm Thursday 20th September 2012 in News
TV NATURALIST Chris Packham has criticised the Lake District National Park Authority for scuppering plans to open a red squirrel education centre at Brockhole.
The presenter is a supporter of the Wildlife Ark Trust, a charity set up to protect the endangered animal, which wanted to lease a part of the LDNPA’s visitor centre.
Members say the education centre, with a research centre and captive breeding programme facility, could have provided at least 12 full-time jobs. It would have had an exhibition hall, mini cinema, an animatronics display, shop and a red squirrel enclosure.
The LDNPA says that it is still open to working with the charity, and it had looked at negotiating over the use of a smaller building on the site, known as the ‘lodge’.
But the trust has said all along its size is not feasible for the project, and it wanted to lease a part of the visitor centre.
But in emails seen by The Westmorland Gazette from director of park services, Bob Cartwright, the LDNPA told the Wildlife Ark Trust that tenders would instead be invited for its lease as a hostel.
“The authority has decided at this stage not to pursue other potential partnering options such as an alternative visitor attraction or the sort of concept you had in mind,” read the email.
“If the invitation to tender process fails to attract suitable partners for a hostel operation, I dare say members will review the position. But at this stage it would be misleading of me to give you any encouragement for your preferred development of the site as expressed to us earlier.”
Mr Packham said: “I am extremely disappointed by the LDNPA’s refusal to allow a red squirrel education centre at Brockhole. There is a lot of talk by certain organisations about green tourism, sustainability and conservation and yet, when they are presented with a golden opportunity to put this into practice, they opt for another hostel.
“I fear the red squirrel’s days in the Lake District may be numbered.”
Brockhole Redevelopment Director Adam Thomas said: “As an organisation we are totally committed to protecting native Lake District red squirrels. Only last weekend we staged a special Squirrel Fest at Brockhole, promoting all aspects of red squirrel activity.
“Unfortunately, it was not possible to reach a commercial agreement over the main house at Brockhole but we hoped that progress could have been made over use of the smaller lodge building.
“We are still open to work with them and hope a solution can be found that will help protect red squirrels.”
Members of the trust said they were determined to create the education centre and have called on anyone in the Lakes with at least 5,000sq ft of floor space and parking for cars and coaches to email firstname.lastname@example.org