Couple say changes at Westonbirt Arboretum will push visitors away

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard: Westonbirt Arboretum director Simon Toomer at the start of building work on the new centre Westonbirt Arboretum director Simon Toomer at the start of building work on the new centre

A WILTSHIRE couple has warned that a redevelopment of Westonbirt Arboretum could scare away visitors.

Marion Gee, from Sherston, and her husband Douglas, who is disabled, are regular visitors to the woodland.

When a new welcome building opens on June 23, the current car park will be relocated outside the new building, 345 metres from where it is currently, close to the café.

For the disabled and children who are not able to walk this distance, the arboretum will be providing buggies, mobility scooters and wheelchairs.

But Marion said that would be off-putting for visitors.

“It is quite a distance. We will have to park at the top and go through a turnstile,” she said.

“It is going to be a problem and I don’t think many people know about it. Everyone I speak to about it says it is totally ridiculous.

“I think they are going to lose custom. A lot of older people go to that café.”

The new building and change of car parking facilities has been made as part of the Arboretum’s Westonbirt Project, which was set up to improve the visitor’s experience at Westonbirt.

Once parked in the new car park, people will pay in the welcome building, instead of queuing in the car to pay before entering Westonbirt.

As well as the path to the café, other pathways will lead from the welcome building to areas of the woodland.

Simon Toomer, the arboretum director, defended the decision to move the car park.

He said: “The whole reason for the project is to remove clutter and parking from the historic landscape.

“We are putting in much better facilities for disabled people and ambulant people – a much better welcome and a much nicer car park.

“A small number of people have raised this concern. Until we try it, it is very difficult to know whether these people will find it as difficult as they think. Overall, I think people will appreciate the changes.”

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