Christchurch Councillors will be receiving a report at the Community Committee on Wednesday 21 November on proposals to develop a 15-hectare Country Park on land stretching from Two Riversmeet Golf Course down to Stanpit Recreation Ground.
The report sets out a number of aims for the park with a key focus being on reducing pressure on environmentally protected sites such as Heathlands and Stanpit Marsh, increasing biodiversity and wildlife corridors, and introducing more activities connected with healthy living, volunteering, and appreciation and protection of the environment.
Members will also receive information on how the proposals will be funded and how further stakeholder and community engagement will be carried out in order that the community can derive maximum benefit from the area, in harmony with protecting the environment.
Cllr Margaret Phipps, Chairman of the Community Committee, 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. Natural England have said that they are supportive of the Council’s approach to this project, and if the Committee decides that 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.“
If approved the proposals will mean that the golf course adjacent to the Leisure Centre will be converted to public open space. The report highlights that the course currently only breaks even financially and that golf in the UK is overall experiencing a steady decline in players. However, it also points out that locally golfers have the option of being able to play at the Play Golf Centre which is also owned by the Council.
David Barnes, Strategic Director at Christchurch Borough Council, said: “There are not many local councils in the country who own two golf courses, so although golfers will lose Two Riversmeet they do have another facility on the doorstep. The Leisure Centre has over 1500 members and the Council have written to the 14 Members 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 proposals a final decision will need to be made at the Full Council meeting in December with the further aim of the Council carrying out a launch event in March 2018.
You can view the agenda and papers here