Local ecology is being damaged by the Go Ape high wire adventure course at Itchen Valley Country Park according to a report presented today to the Local Area Committee.
When the Lib Dem local area committee gave planning consent for the course to go ahead it was in the face of evidence that the chosen location is in environmentally sensitive woodland and right next to the internationally important River Itchen.
Experts, including celebrity green campaigner Chris Packham, opposed the development on environmental grounds, but the committee voted with the Lib Dem leadership with only two dissenting voices.
Go Ape have admitted that they got their design wrong and are having to apply for retrospective planning consent and rewrite their biodiversity protection plan.
What is more worrying is that it seems their paying customers and spectators are stomping all over delicate plants in the vicinity.
The council’s nature conservation officer now writes:
"The soil material which makes up the landing mound is currently
unconsolidated and is not physically retained along its sides. It is
already spilling into the boundary of the woodland and having an
adverse impact on the ancient woodland and ground flora. This issue is
likely to worsen over time and cause damage either directly, or
indirectly through remedial works to repair the earth bund in the future
Additionally, the revised location of the landing zone appears to be
acting as a honey pot and there are many informal paths developing
into the woodland around the landing zone. This is causing
unacceptable trampling damage to the ancient woodland ground flora."
In July 2010 Cllr Keith House was clearly taken in by Go Ape’s publicity machine when he said “Visitors to Go Ape will have a fun experience on the high wire tree top activity as well as the chance to find out about other aspects of the park including our work to manage the important species and habitats found there”
They are not so much finding out about the important species and habitats as trampling them underfoot.
Councillors agreed to grant retrospective planning consent with conditions that they hope will mitigate the ecological damage.