Open Meeting about the Scout Campsite
Thursday, 16 May 2013
The meeting was called to advise Abington residents about the proposed sale of the campsite in Church Lane. The main hall at the Institute was full, with everyone present expressing views of support for keeping the site as an open space open to scouts and others – just as it is now.
Peter Brunning outlined the situation from a Parish Council viewpoint. The first event was a planning application to demolish most of the existing buildings, build three houses (later revised to bungalows) within the village envelope where development is permitted and use the proceeds from their sale to fund two new scout buildings, one built outside the village envelope. The Parish Council recommended rejection but, in November 2011, the applicant convinced the District Council’s planning committee of the need for major refurbishment; the revised proposal was finally agreed in August 2012. Almost immediately, we were advised that the scouts were considering several options including selling the entire site; this option was selected in February 2013. The site is now up for sale with January’s, with the intention to complete the sale by July, when the site will close. The Parish Council successfully applied for the site to be listed as an asset of Community Value on 09-May-2013.
Tony Orgee, our district councillor, clarified the planning and community asset situation. He was helpful in answering many questions about this topic. Reg Cullum, a long time scout volunteer and chairman of the ‘Friends of Abington Camp Site’, explained the history and use of the site. The site was a gift to the Cambridge district scouts by a group of businessmen and academics. The current objective of FACS is to request a postponement of the sale, until issues of past and future ownership can be clarified. Reg explained that the Cambridgeshire County Scout Council is adamant that it will not change its plan and is barely communicating with those involved with the site. Indeed the County Commissioner refused to attend our meeting, stating that ‘there are two sides to every story’ but ‘myself and the Trustees do not feel anything would be gained, as there is no further information to share other than that which has been posted on the County Website – www.cambridgeshirescouts.org.uk/abington-review
Carol Alderton spoke on behalf of the Abington Jeremiah's Scouts, around 60 strong and the most directly affected group. She spoke of the delight that the local scouts get from the site – and the need to keep the OUT in scouting! She was concerned that there were no suitable alternative venues for the scout Group to use nearby. Nick Hindley, another user of the site, has run management training events there for a local company. He is convinced that much more income, with little outlay or effect on scout use, could be made by looking for similar customers. He has presented a business plan to the scouts but this seems to have been ignored. We had a valuable insight into the working of the Scouts hierarchy from Richard Hames, former county commissioner, who had supported the development but not the sale. He said he could not defend the current position. Melinda Rigby, representing a growing group of Scout parents, spoke about the support of Cambridge MP, Julian Huppert, and his recent visit to the site. Joseph Knight, the scout who organised an online petition that has attracted nearly 2000 signatures (http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-abington-scout-campstite/) said he had the impression that the county doesn’t care how young people feel! There was lots of support for continued use by the scouts, local residents & others. Strong feelings were expressed – using words such as disappointed, illogical, unethical and immoral. People asked why there had been no consultation and were concerned about a lack of transparency, suggesting complaints to the charity commissioners and that planning permission obtained under false pretences should be withdrawn.
The meeting agreed that all the groups should work together to develop a plan for the site. The Parish Council collected contact details at the meeting and has now given formal notice of an intention to submit a bid for the ‘community asset’. This gives us six months to develop a proposal for the future of the site and to raise the funds – a very large amount of money, perhaps £400,000. Thankfully, there are already signs of a great deal of support from the whole Cambridge community.
Last updated on 30 May 2013.