I don't have an email address, how can I sign your petition?
My friend doesn't have access to the Internet. How can they sign your petition?
- Thank you for trying to support us. We have now launched a paper petition to "mop up" those supporters who can't sign the electronic version. You can find out more about this here and download the forms you need.
- Why does it matter if South Cambridgeshire District Council close the Park. Surely it will just go back to how it used to be: a wild place which we can wander over at will?
This is a dangerous myth. If the Park closes it remains the responsibility of the landowners. They are responsible for your safety, even if the Park is closed and they erect signs to say it's closed, so they will probably try to secure the Park with high fences across all the entrances.
Both South Cambridgeshire District Council and Cambridgeshire County Council are desperately short of money so they will want to dispose of their parts of the Park in any way that makes them money. That might include:
- Selling the pits as land fill sites
- Selling the land at the Fen Road end for housing development
- Renting or selling the site for other activities which would exclude the public such as a private carp fishery or a paintball match area
South Cambridgeshire District Council are also currently looking for locations for new traveller sites close to settled communities so they might choose to use part of the Park for that purpose.
- If the Park closes can it be opened again later?
- No. As we explain here a private landowner owns almost all the land south of the 13th Public Drain i.e. the entrance, car park, and the land on which the Visitor Centre is built. It is leased to SCDC on a 999 year lease which has 987 years left to run. The lease states that the land can only be used as a Country Park. If the Park closes, or any other use is proposed by South Cambridgeshire District Council then the land reverts to the landowner. Previously the landowner was trying to develop an industrial estate on that land and had got as far as laying roads.
- South Cambridgeshire District Council say it costs them £300,000 to run the Park. Why does it cost so much?
It doesn't. The £300,000 figure which is often quoted represents the typical cost of running the Park for SCDC in the last few years according to their published accounts. However the estimated cost for 2006/2007 (assuming no income from car parking and three rangers) breaks down into three elements (rounded to the nearest £1,000):
Actual costs incurred in the Park, e.g. Ranger salaries, maintenance costs £168,000 Recharges of central costs £70,000 Capital charges £61,000 Total £299,000
So only just over half of the cost is incurred in the Park (and that's likely to be lower in reality as car parking charges for the last three months of the year will reduce the nett cost).
£70,000 is allocated against the Park budget by SCDC to cover their own overheads. These include a share in the cost of SCDC's offices at Cambourne.
The other figure is the mysterious "capital charges". The best explanation we've heard is that these represent "depreciation" of the asset i.e. the Park.
What's important to understand however is that the only element which it's possible to reduce in the £299,000 is the first one. So if SCDC's cabinet calls on the Park to make a cut of 25% then that actually means a cut closer to 50% in the amount on money actually spent in the Park as the other two figures can't be reduced.
- Cllr Vicky Ford said in an interview that it costs SCDC £200,000 to run the Park. Where does that figure come from?
- We're not sure. We think it may be the figures above leaving out the "Capital charges" and also allowing £30,000 which is the projected income from car parking. That would bring the total down to £208,000.
- SCDC are saying we should "use it or lose it" - how will more visitors to the Park help?
Again it's not entirely clear why they're saying that. The Park already has a lot of visitors. Around a quarter of a million a year according to SCDC and we would of course love to see more people use the Park.
If the number of people who visit by car goes up then income from car parking will rise, although since SCDC estimate they will make only £30,000 per year from car parking then even if visitor numbers double they will only make another £30,000 a year.
They've also been suggesting that visitors should spend money in the café. However the people running the café facility currently pay a fixed fee to SCDC, so unless this changes, any increase in spending there will only benefit the café owners not the Park.
Fundamentally, like many council-run leisure facilities, country parks do not make a profit and we are seriously concerned if SCDC's only solution to stopping the Park closing is gaining more income this way.
Moreover the Cabinet meeting of 14th December agreed that SCDC should find an appropriate external organisation to take on the management and possible ownership of the park and if no suitable partnership looked likely by 31st August then officers be instructed to take the necessary steps to close the park. So how much we use the Park makes no difference to that decision and it will close if no one can be found to take it on.
- Cllr Vicky Ford says she needs to raise £75,000 to save the Park. Why aren't you helping with that?
You need to understand what she means by that figure. £75,000 is the amount the budget of the Park is being cut, so to keep the Park as it is she would need to raise £75,000 every year, not once. But more importantly the decision of SCDC's Cabinet of 14th December was not to close the Park unless Cllr Ford could raise £75,000, it was to close the Park unless someone could be found to take on the management and possible ownership of the Park.
Given that SCDC have been trying to do this for quite some time now, without success, it seems to us that our priority is reversing that decision rather than fundraising. In fact arguably we would be taking money off people under false pretences: if the Park has no future, which will be the case if the Cabinet decision is not reversed, how can we possibly ask people for cash?
- Why should South Cambridgeshire District Council operate a Park which is only really used by Milton residents?
- SCDC councillors have repeatedly stated that the Park is only used by Milton residents. We think that this is another myth. It's probably true that most dog-walkers and joggers are local people who just happen to use the park as it is there. But the other classes of users are people who really do travel specially to the Park, for example fishermen, birdwatchers, families for afternoons out, combining feeding the ducks, using the play-equipment and café.
- Why should South Cambridgeshire District Council spend so much money on a Country Park which is only of benefit to Milton, a few surrounding villages and Cambridge City residents
As we've already said we believe that people all over the area which SCDC serves use the Park but if we just stick to the villages immediately around it and look at population according to the last census the figures are: Milton 4275, Histon 4362, Impington 4025, Waterbeach 4431, Landbeach 825, Horningsea 331 and Fen Ditton 747 - so their total population is 18,996. The total population of SCDC of 130,103 and one seventh of that is 18,586. So just over one seventh of SCDC's population live in the villages immediately surrounding the Park.
And we've not included other nearby villages such as Cottenham (5652) or Girton (3752). Adding those to the pot would suggest the Park is in easy reach of over 20% of SCDC's population.
The other thing councillors like to bring up is how much the Park is used by people from Cambridge. This is certainly true, but SCDC residents use a lot of City facilities, especially those who live in the "necklace" villages around the City. Cambridge City councillors often complain about this. We would argue that the Park is one way for SCDC to give something back.
- Why can't South Cambridgeshire District Council get someone like the RSPB or the Cambridgeshire Wildlife Trust to take on the Park?
- They have tried. In April 2006 SCDC wrote to anyone they thought might be interested, including a range of conservation bodies. However it appears that none of them were willing to take on the Park.
- Why isn't the Campaign coming up with solutions to save the Park?
- The campaign itself has one objective: to get support for petition stated on our home page. We have kept it simple so we can be a "broad church" that everyone can support. But behind the scenes campaign committee members are working very hard on finding solutions. However SCDC, who are the professionals after all, have been trying and failing for a year and a half now so it's not an easy problem to solve.
Save Milton Country Park
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