Agenda item

Park Manager's Report


Chris Burton (Park Manager) delivered the Park Manager’s Report to the Joint Committee, and discussed:


a)     An overview of the Mount Edgcumbe Country Park, including its listing as a grade 1 listed landscape, 17km of coastal strip, 865 acres of land, and 7.5 acres of formal gardens. The park also had 56 listed buildings, 5 ancient monuments, 36km of footpaths and received around 250,000 visitors per year, although these figures were old and would be reviewed under funding from the National Marine Park project. Mount Edgcumbe was the largest country park in England/Cornwall;


b)    Operational costs of the Park were around £1MM, annually. The Park had historically relied on around £450,000 of financing per year, funded by Plymouth and Cornwall Councils however, the park was now largely self-sufficient due to a variety of innovations and efficiencies;


c)     Over the past 10 years, the Park had recruited 4 new staff, purchased 5 new vehicles, renovated 9 new holiday-lets, and attained £4MM in grant-aid since 2010. There were around 24 businesses operating across the park, with approximately 70 staff employed;


d)    24 events had been held at the park this year, in partnership with Miss Ivy Events. It was important to consider the scale of events and their suitability for the Park, with car parking being one of the biggest limiting factors;


e)     The Park had won TripAdvisor’s ‘Travellers Choice Award’ for the past two consecutive years, placing them in the top 10% of venues in the world;


f)      The Park had strong ecological benefits, featuring 27 different types of Waxcaps; this was above the 22 varieties required to be ‘internationally important’;


g)     The Park relied heavily on volunteering and the Friends of Mount Edgcumbe group, with 7.5 acres of garden to maintain, across three full-time gardeners. Over 600 voluntary days had been held in the past year, including a partnership with Royal Navy recruits from HMS Raleigh. While volunteer numbers had declined during the Covid-19 Pandemic, levels had now relatively recovered;


h)    Mount Edgcumbe had held a Deer Park since 1515 however, much of the fencing had deteriorated. Three quarters of the fencing had now been completed, with 4.6km of deer fencing in total. Deer surveys were being conducted to assess numbers, and gates and access points were being installed. A Deer management plan would be complete by the end of Winter;


i)      A priority for the Park, was improving climate resilience. This included replacing/re-connecting old water tanks and pipe infrastructure across the Park. The National Camellia collection would be revisited this year, and the Cornish Black Bee project was performing well;


j)      The Garden Battery development was subject to HLF funding, which was expected to be determined by Christmas. Planning permission had been attained and would soon move on to a consultation phase, engaging communities on the nature of stories/ history included in displays, before building work began in around Summer 2024. This would then be opened to the public, for free, to engage in local history;


k)     A tour system was in place at the house which had been highly successful. Every school within 20 miles of the Park had been written to, inviting them to visit the park. Transport remained a barrier for many schools, and Park management funded transport, where possible, to enable engagement. (A list of these schools was circulated to the committee as part of a previous tracking decision);


l)      A new playground had been installed following demolition of the existing facilities due to safety concerns. This had been funded in partnership with the Friends of Mount Edgcumbe;


m)   For the first time, Mount Edgcumbe Country Park had hosted a race of the National Triathlon Series, including a children’s triathlon. Feedback had been positive and it was planned to repeat this event next year;


n)    Over 1,000 children had attended the Park this year as part of the Plymouth Schools Partnership, enabling schools with a lack of green space to enjoy outdoor activities;


o)    The predominant pressures this year had been winter storms and Ash Die-back. In the last storm, 15 trees had fallen, including a 300 year old Oak. All trees were surveyed and monitored throughout the year and a new digital asset management system had been introduced. As part of SOPs, the Park was closed for safety reasons when wind speeds reached over 50mph;


p)    Utility bill cost increases were a significant challenge for the Park, which regrettably had to be passed back to tenants. There had also been an increase in the cost of Pertempts agency staff due to national/living wage increases. While not initially noticeable, there were now indications that the recession had started to impact public spending, with various park income streams seeing a reduction in demand;


q)    It was a challenge to juggle the various priorities and interests of various public groups/individuals, within the park. While some people prioritised cycling accessibility, others prioritised horse riding, coastal path walking, sea access, green spaces, or historic building conservation. The Park was therefore diverse, and catered to many different individuals and groups.


In response to questions, the Joint Committee discussed:


r)     The Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry Joint Committee would shortly consider a report detailing opportunities to expand its services, which included transport up and down the Tamar, rather than just across. There was potential that these proposals could serve the Park, thus benefiting ease of access and visitor numbers;


s)     Historically, Plymouth City Council had subsidised the Cremyll Ferry. The Joint Committee were aware of rising operation costs, and thus fares, due to fuel and wage inflation. As a vital access route between Plymouth and Cornwall, there was potential for subsidisation to be reconsidered at a future date;


t)     The use of Pertemps staff, while contributing to cost pressures, provided operational flexibility to increase capacity during events and ceremonies;


u)    Rangers had inspected Rame Head two weeks ago and confirmed the ponies were still being grazed.


The Joint Committee agreed:


1.       To note the update from the Park Manager;


2.       To recommend that the Cabinets of Plymouth and Cornwall Councils instruct officers to produce a strategic management and development plan for the Mount Edgcumbe Country Park. To be renewed every five years;


3.       To recommend that the Cabinets of Plymouth and Cornwall Councils approve the Strategic Management and Development Plan by the end of 2024, and that an interim update on the progress is brought to the next Joint Committee Meeting in July 2024;


4.       To recommend that the Cabinets of Plymouth and Cornwall Councils review the Mount Edgcumbe Joint Committee’s Terms of Reference, and update accordingly to reflect pertinent changes;


5.       To add the Strategic Management and Development Plan as a standing item on this Joint Committee’s agenda, to monitor performance and progress against these plans.


(These recommendations were proposed by the Chair, Councillor Ewert, seconded by Councillor Gilmour, and agreed unanimously).

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