Wildlife campaigner lodges official protest to siting of planned Climbing Wall in Peterborough park

TV naturalist Chris Packham has officially lodged his objections to the siting of an Olympic-grade Climbing Wall on a lakeside site in Peterborough.

Monday, 27th January 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Monday, 27th January 2020, 7:01 am
Wildlife campaigner and TV presenter Chris Packham.

TV's Springwatch presenter, Mr Packham, has submitted an official protest about Nene Park Trust's plans for a 34.25 metre high Climbing Wall - part of a proposed Nene Park Activity Centre - on the banks of Gunwade Lake in Ferry Meadows.

He has added his objections to the publicly-viewable planning application on Peterborough City Council's planning portal and urges the trust to reconsider the setting for its £8 million venture.

Mr Packham writes: "I am opposing the proposed setting for this indoor Climbing Wall that will be open at night and urbanise a precious area of green open space with mature trees, oak meadow and protected quality rich habitat for wildlife, including bats .

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"British wildlife is in serious decline due to disappearing habitats. Meadows and mature healthy trees need protecting - we don't have the luxury to be blasé about removing any ( in this case 15 and a large area of vegetation) no matter how many saplings we have planted as there are no guarantees they will survive.

"Peterborough City Council rightly prides itself on declaring Climate Emergency and aiming to be First Environmental Capital yet is considering passing this proposal, opening nightly in such an environmentally sensitive area and attracting many hundreds of extra cars into one of the few unspoilt areas of fresh air in the city and low level light pollution .

"Ferry Meadows needs cherishing as a natural place for our children to learn to appreciate nature not an urban hub/ nature theme park destroying all it originally set to achieve.

"Please reconsider the setting for this climbing wall and leave the habitat the way it is for wildlife and humans alike to enjoy."

This is not Mr Packham's first objection to the trust's proposals.

Last May, he took to Twitter to urge people to sign a petition protesting at the plans.

The proposals have attracted many objections from residents and a variety of organisations, including wildlife and heritage groups.

Campaigners say their petition was signed by 1,112 people with 1,944 names on a Facebook petition and 355 objections lodged on the council's planning portal.

Lynn Walton, who is campaigning against the construction of the Climbing Wall in the park, said: "We grateful to have Chris Packham's support as he is the People's Voice for Nature and Wildlife, tirelessly protecting wildlife hence his recent Wildlife Rebellion Campaign.

"Chris is more than aware of the fact that NPT's stock phrase "a net gain in biodiversity" is flawed as the Environmental Report is only of the car park on which the Wall will be built. No surprise that not many animals will be affected.

"Saddening and bewildering that they have not included the quality rich habitat of the Lake, oak meadow and the quiet access road that is a crucial part of the Wildlife Corridor.

"For 40 years NPT have been excellent exemplars but NPT's current direction of urbanisation has upset thousands of people who love the Park as it is."

Previously responding to Mr Packham's Twitter appeal, Matthew Bradbury, the trust's chief executive, urged the TV presenter to visit the park.

He said: "We would love the opportunity to have Chris come and see what we’re doing and to see how this fits into the wider work of Nene Park Trust."

The trust is currently consulting on a revised planning application, which it hopes will meet objections.

The Nene Park Activity Centre would provide facilities for community use as well as elite climbers and it is estimated it would generate £2million a year for the city economy and create about 31 jobs.