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Guildford campsite could become "Forest School"

3 minute read
Guildford campsite could become "Forest School"

Published at 3:13pm 2nd January 2019. (Updated at 3:37pm 2nd January 2019)

Land used as a campsite popular with the scouts could be freed up for a forest school.

Chantry Wood Campsite near Guildford is in need of repair and not financially viable, according to a council report.

One of the suggestions to go before councillors next week is to refurbish the site and lease it out to a forest school, which provides education to children in woodland and outdoors.

Chantry Wood, on the North Downs just three miles from Guildford in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is managed by Guildford Borough Council’s Countryside Estate and is one of its strategic SANG sites (Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace).

The campsite has been running for more than 50 years with basic facilities including toilet blocks, a barn and fire pits.

Over the past five years around five school or scout groups have visited it per year with the rest of bookings being family groups.

But over the past year the number of daytime bookings for use as a forest school or children’s birthday party venue has increased.

Visitor numbers to the site have decreased from 1,898 in 2016 to 1,263 in 2017.

And costs have increased from 2015/16 with £5,398 in expenditure and £4,023 in income to £9,354 expenditure in 2017/18 with £4,695 income.

A report to be considered by Guildford Borough Council executive councillors on Tuesday (8 January) states:

“Therefore, the campsite’s contribution to developing local tourism can be considered negligible.

“The current operation also limits the opportunities to enhance the campsite as a local outdoor education facility, which would contribute to national targets to re-connect people/ children with the natural environment as well as encouraging natural play.”

A refurbishment plan is in place with a budget of £216,000 set by the council in 2016 including £116,000 of Section 106 money.

A review of potential options has been carried out before any refurbishment started.

Councillors will discuss seven potential options for use of the site, but the preferred bid is for Option D – to carry out small scale refurbishment and lease the area for a Forest School which will run five days a week from 8am – 6pm for children aged three to five.

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