News release from 21/05/2020

Council agrees grant to keep Milton Country Park open

Council agrees grant to keep Milton Country Park open

Milton Country Park is being provided with up to £50,000 by the District Council, to ensure residents can keep enjoying the green spaces and paths.

The grant will include a £25,000 payment now and the option of the second half from September. It is being made available to the Cambridge Sport Lakes Trust charity, which runs the 95-acre Park on South Cambridgeshire District Council’s behalf.

The park has a combination of woodland, water and grassy meadow habitats which are carefully managed to support and enhance diversity and the natural environment. Throughout the year there is an abundance of wildlife to see and enjoy. 

Trees surrounding a lake

However, in March, the main sources of income – the car park and café – were closed to help with social distancing requirements. The Park’s chargeable sports and activity programme also stopped. The car park only re-opened at the start of May, for use by visitors who have no option but to drive there, with the café currently only serving takeaways. These factors led to Cambridge Sport Lakes Trust furloughing staff to keep costs down and struggling to meet running costs.

The Trust has not been eligible for the Government’s business support schemes as it does not pay business rates – a key criteria for the main grant schemes announced so far. A Crowdfunding scheme is currently running and has reached almost £9,000 but more help is needed to keep the Park open. This led to the Trust approaching the Council.

In 2008, the Council handed the lease for the Country Park to the Trust. Should the trust not be able to continue running it, then the management would revert to be the Council’s responsibility.

At the Full Council meeting today (Thursday 21 May) Councillors voted to award the grant funding.

South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Lead Cabinet Member for Finance, Cllr John Williams (pictured - above), said: “This is a unique case. In the current situation parks and green spaces are now more important than ever for our physical and mental health. Cambridge Sport Lakes Trust run Milton Country Park for South Cambs because the Council does not have the expertise to do it itself particularly with regard to the provision of water activities. Without this financial intervention, there was a very real chance the Trust would be unable to continue. The Park is hugely important in providing space for exercise, especially for those who live locally and will keep supporting the health and wellbeing of the communities it serves well into the future.”

Cllr Hazel Smith, one of the members for Milton and Waterbeach Ward, added: “I walk in Milton Country Park nearly every day, and for people in Milton and nearby parts of Cambridge it has been a valued space to walk by the water and enjoy nature, during most of the lockdown period. Now that the car park is open and more people are visiting from a little further afield, the Park is becoming busier - still everyone is carefully observing the rules on social distancing. The big events that they have made money from in previous years will not happen this year. I do hope that like me, people will support the Park when they visit, as the Cambridge Sport Lakes Trust will need all the financial help we can give to keep the Park going as it has been, accessible and affordable to everyone. Milton Parish Council has given them a grant of £10,000 and I'm very pleased that the District Council is also supporting them."

Executive Director at Cambridge Sport Lakes Trust, Mick Woolhouse, said: “Over the recent weeks and no doubt the months ahead, the Coronavirus crisis has had a significant impact on the trading opportunities at Milton Country Park. Many of the activities and events that are delivered at the park are obviously seasonal and are unlikely to happen as planned this year. The park is managed by a charity and does not currently receive any ongoing or regular public funding, so the income generated from activities and events is crucial to making the facility viable as a going concern. Despite the immediate challenges we have done everything can to keep the park open to the public, gradually adjusting what is possible as the government guidance evolves at each stage. The Trust and many of our users and partners are extremely grateful for the support provided by South Cambridgeshire District Council. This intervention will go a long way towards helping secure the immediate future of the Park.”

You can read the report considered at today's Full Council meeting.