Very sad news today as Gateshead Council sacks the rest of the Countryside Wardens and gets rid of Bill Quay Farm.
The spending plans for the coming year includes the proposed loss of the remaining Ranger posts.
LSC2 : Bill Quay Farm
Transfer of operation to another provider or cessation of activity.
LSC3 : Cease Countryside Warden support
This spending proposal would result in the removal of 2 Full Time Equivalent posts
It would appear that Gateshead will continue to withdraw, even though they are duty-bound, of managing their sites of local and national importance for wildlife.
Their own report reviewed last year warned of the risks -
The non delivery of the CBS Countryside Management Team would have the following impact:
There would be no visible presence within the main countryside sites ensuring that the environments are safe and that the biodiversity is protected. This would lead to a deterioration of the quality of the countryside sites through misuse and anti social behaviour.
There could be a reduction in the accessibility of countryside sites leading to a loss of opportunity across all diverse groups
The quality of green spaces is a consistent issue for residents. There are 2 Green Flag managed sites, 1 Man and the Biosphere site, 1 Country Park, 1 Forest Park 4 SSSI’s 10 LNR’s and 22 LWS’s managed by the CMT. A reduction in service will lead to all sites becoming degraded. To fulfil the Biodiversity Duty (NERC Act 2006) the Council should ensure there is no net loss of biodiversity on a site.
The Natural Environment is often called the natural health service. The benefits of access to high quality green space in terms of mental and physical health and well-being is well known.
Services from Thornley Woodlands Centre and Swalwell Visitor Centres would be lost to visitors.
Support to the Countryside Volunteers would be reduced as they would only be support by the Natural Environment Team within D&E.
There would also be a loss to the education of school children and other groups with regard to the countryside and wider environment. The informal advice and assistance given by the Rangers to residents would also be lost.
The actual number of visitors to the countryside sites is unknown however people counters have recently been installed along key access points of the Derwent Walk which have registered 180,000 visitors for the period July 2011 to January 2012.
Some of the grant funding conditions for the major reclamations schemes may not be fully adhered to.
The Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) have statutory legal protection which if they fall into unfavourable condition could result in the Council being prosecuted.
If sites become degraded and public access becomes unsuitable or dangerous the Council could face increasing claims under public liability.
Who are the main customer groups affected by this Proposal:
The countryside sites are open access and attract all sections of the community.
It is not possible to exactly define the customer groups using the countryside parks however feedback from staff and volunteers indicate the following user groups:
Families with Children
Disabled individuals and groups
Mobility scooter users
Young people not in education, employment or training
Volunteers attending for health, therapeutic, community and professional development purposes
Schools, specialist schools, colleges and university groups
Further and Higher Education Students undergoing career development and study
Green Gym enthusiasts and joggers
So start saying goodbye to
- Addison and Hedgefield Woods
- Banesley Lane
- Bensham Butterfly Station
- Blaydon Burn Nature Reserve
- Burdon Moor
- Cross Lane Meadows
- Derwent Walk Country Park and Derwenthaugh Park
- Dunston Pond
- Kittiwake Tower
- Lamesley Pastures
- Longacre Wood
- Norwood Nature Park
- Ousbrough Wood
- Pelaw Quarry Pond
- Ryton Willows
- Shibdon Pond Local Nature Reserve
- Stargate Ponds
- Summerhill and Stella Meadows
- Sunniside Park
- Wardley Manor Proposed Country Park
- Watergate Forest Park
- Windy Nook Nature Park