Thu, 18 May 2017
POLICE were called as a row over parking at an ancient woodland in Baughurst boiled over.
Some residents are unhappy that the car parking spaces by the play park on Wolverton Road are being taken up by the nearby School Beneath the Pines – a forestry school which provides bushcraft workshops for children.
Alex Hart – the founder of the school in Sandford Woods – said he faced verbal abuse and physical threats from one local resident on April 1.
Mr Hart claimed two residents said they would be “coming the next day with a gun”.
He recorded the incident on his mobile phone and sent it to the police.
A Hampshire police spokesman said that the parties involved had been spoken to, but confirmed that no arrests or charges had been made.
However, when asked by the Newbury Weekly News, police were unable to confirm whether a physical threat involving firearms was made.
Mr Hart said: “We don’t understand what the problem is and we have spoken to the dog walkers who use the area and they love that we are on the site.”
Baughurst residents have formed an unofficial group to protest against the existence of the forest school and attended the last Baughurst Parish Council meeting to voice their concerns.
Clerk to Baughurst Parish Council, Penny Waterfield, said: “We have no current formal objection to the activity, providing they [the forestry school] always leave sufficient spaces in our car park which they use for their clients.”
Baughurst Parish Council granted permission for the school to use some of the spaces allocated to the on-site playground, but there have been complaints about the spaces for the play park being blocked.
Former Hampshire county councillor for Tadley and Baughurst, Warwick Lovegrove, said: “We have a play area for children on Wolverton Road, and the car park is for the facility.
“When the school meet they use the car park for their cars and it doesn’t leave much space for the parents that use the play park.”
Mr Hart said: “We pride our school on the notion that great outdoor experiences can hold a treasure of inspiring, exciting and educational opportunities for all.
“I strongly believe that allowing children to explore their imaginations in a safe and exciting environment contributes positively to their holistic development.”
The Facebook reviews for the school are largely positive.
One, from Lidia Matusiak, said: “I can’t speak highly enough of Alex and his team and I would definitely recommend this activity to families or anyone who would like to get away from the city for few hours.”
Kath Routledge added: “My girls (seven and three) thoroughly enjoyed themselves and it was so nice being outside. “My older daughter plans to make a bug hotel in the back garden and take photos so she can show Alex.”
Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council will be meeting Mr Hart on May 24 regarding the planning permission required for the use of the site.
The school is currently able to use the site for 28 days per year without having planning permission
Mr Hart said: “Planning has taken longer to organise than originally thought it would, but it is in hand.
“We have insurance in place, everything has been done to a tee and risk assessments have been done.”
He added that it seemed to be a “personal attack”.