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New Christchurch country park offers 'huge opportunity'

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Christchurch Borough Council civic offices
Christchurch Borough Council civic offices

"EXCITING" new plans for a 15-hectare coastal country park in Christchurch have been unveiled.

The park would be created on land incorporating the Two Riversmeet Golf Course, Stanpit Recreation Ground and Ashtree Meadow, and it is hoped the facility will reduce pressure on environmentally protected sites such as heathlands and Stanpit Marsh, increase biodiversity and wildlife corridors and encourage healthy living and volunteering activities.

The borough council plan will be considered by its community committee on Wednesday (21st November). A report to that meeting by the authority’s strategic director David Barnes stated the recreation space will also promote appreciation and protection of the environment.

Cllr Margaret Phipps, community committee chair, said: “The proposals are potentially very exciting and it’s not every day that a council is able to embark on creating a new park.

“There is huge potential here for a great recreational space for residents, coupled with the opportunity to improve biodiversity and wildlife habitats.”

She added that Natural England were also fully supportive of the move, continuing: “If the committee decides this should go ahead, we must ensure that we maintain the correct balance of activities there so that local people can enjoy it without there being any harmful impacts on the environment.”

Under the scheme, the golf course will be converted to general open space / recreation use with fencing, a paths network, benches, fitness and education trails and play sculptures.

Current enhancement works will continue at Stanpit Recreation Ground to retain an open landscape for people to explore, and vegetation will be managed to improve it for wildlife – this will involve reducing mowing and removing select vegetation in the old depot site.

The recreation ground’s existing visitor centre will act as an information and education facility for visitors, and works to Ashtree Meadows will include secure fencing and the creation of a pond and new benches.

Members will also receive information on how the scheme will be funded through investment recouped through housing development land elsewhere in the borough, and how further stakeholder and community engagement will be carried out.

The council-owned Two Riversmeet Golf Course adjacent to the leisure centre is used exclusively by golfers via pay and play or leisure centre membership, and currently has 14 members signed up exclusively for golf.

Mr Barnes’ report said the course currently only breaks even financially and that golf in the UK is experiencing a steady decline in players. However, he also points out that locally, golfers have the option of being able to play at the 27-hole council-owned Play Golf Centre, which has practice and other facilities, at Iford.

“There are not many local councils in the country that own two golf courses, so although golfers will lose Two Riversmeet they do have another facility on the doorstep,” Mr Barnes said. “The leisure centre has over 1,500 members and the council have written to the 14 signed up exclusively for golf to inform them of the possibility that the course could be closed.

“We hope they will join us in understanding the benefits to the wider community that opening up access to this area will mean, in terms of more people enjoying the benefits of being close to nature, availability of a wider range of health and leisure activities, and the spectacular views.”

Should the committee support the proposal, a final decision will be made at the full council meeting in December, with a launch event planned for March 2019.

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