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A group of demonstrators plan to participate in a large-scale unauthorized entry of Cirencester Park in opposition to proposed charging measures.
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A group of demonstrators plan to participate in a large-scale unauthorized entry of Cirencester Park in opposition to proposed charging measures.

Hundreds of individuals plan to attend a mass incursion of Cirencester Park to demonstrate against the implementation of fees and digital entry gates for walkers and runners.

The residents are disputing the fees, which is the first time in 329 years since the planned park, which is part of the 6,300-hectare Bathurst Estate, was created near the town of Cotswolds.

The Right to Roam campaign is organising the trespass on 17 March – two days after the charges begin – with activities for children and speeches on the Bathurst family’s historic links to the slave trade.

David Watts, a local resident who frequently goes for runs in the park, expressed his displeasure and frustration regarding the recent changes in access and implementation of payment for Cirencester Park. He, along with many others, feels that Cecily Hill not only serves as an entrance to the park but also grants access to vast acres of English countryside that have historically been freely accessible.

Juliette Morton, who intends to participate in the protest, stated: “I resided on a small street near the park and essentially grew up there. Our backyard was small, so the park became our go-to place. We played in the trees and explored the stables and outhouses. It was the primary outdoor space available to us as children in the town.”

Covid has reinforced the importance of green space in people’s daily lives. The park, which has been maintained with taxpayers’ money for centuries, is already owned by the public. This fact has caused frustration for the speaker.

A ticket booth and electronic gates have been added to the main entrances of the park. Now, visitors are required to pay a fee of £4 for entry, while annual passes are priced at £30. People who reside in the local area can obtain a photo-card that will provide them with free entry by submitting a deposit of £10.

Morton stated that he personally knows individuals residing in the town who are unable to pay the £10 deposit, even though it may seem absurd.

Activists claim that the Bathurst Estate has been granted millions of pounds in agricultural subsidies in recent times. The wealth of the family is linked to Benjamin Bathurst, who was a deputy governor for both the East India Company and the Royal Africa Company. He acquired Cirencester Park in 1695.

Jon Moses, from the Right to Roam organization, stated that in 1695, the Royal African Company traded 100,000 slaves to purchase the Bathurst Estate at a terrible cost. He believes that instead of using it for new profit-making ventures, the memory of these slaves should be respected and reparations should be made.

“These instances serve as a sudden reminder of the urgent need for access reform in England, and how much of the disparity in land ownership that we currently face is a result of unethical actions from the past.”

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Lord Bathurst has stated that the pass will aid in the reviving of Broad Avenue and the upkeep of paths, forests, fields, and landmarks within the park.

Bathurst stated that the restorative effects of being in the natural surroundings of Cirencester Park are beneficial for both people and their canine companions. This has been true since the park was originally created and remains just as important nowadays. The team is pleased to continue welcoming the local community and visitors to enjoy Cirencester Park.

The Bathurst Estate spokesperson stated that they prioritize the safety of the park’s animals, visitors, employees, and nearby community. They have been in communication with Right to Roam regarding their plans, with the goal of ensuring that any potential trespassing is done with care.

Source: theguardian.com