Walkers banned from Longleat estate due to 'safety fears'
Walkers and cyclists are being excluded from parts of the Longleat estate on the grounds of security, health and safety and insurance.
That was the message from estate bosses yesterday who hit back at ‘incorrect and misleading claims’ made by local residents who said they have been barred from the Wiltshire estate in the past few weeks.
Longleat said it was ‘reviewing’ access to only a fraction of the total grounds of the estate – less than ten per cent – although that area did include the popular Pleasure Walk.
The estate managers said they intended to hold a public meeting some time next month to talk through the changes with concerned locals.
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A spokesman for Longleat, the management of which recently passed from Lord Bath to his son Ceawlin, said: “In recent weeks there has been a series of stories which have appeared in the media with regard to a review of access to parts of the Longleat estate.
“We have been reluctant to comment on these stories up until now as the review is very much ongoing. “Unfortunately a number of incorrect and, sometimes, misleading statements have found their way into the media.
“Therefore we now feel it is necessary to try and clarify some key issues and, hopefully, provide people with a clearer overall picture of what we are doing and why.
"Firstly, we would like to reiterate that the actual area involved in the review represents less than ten per cent of the total 10,000-acre estate.
"Access to areas like Heaven’s Gate, most of the woodland, Shearwater and the remainder of the estate remain totally unaffected.
"The review focuses on specific areas of concern which have been identified around Longleat House and the formal, landscaped gardens and attractions. Secondly the review is not something we have chosen to do lightly. It is something that we have been forced to address as a matter of urgency.
“No one wants to have to make these difficult and potentially unpopular decisions but sadly we are now at a stage where we no longer have any choice,” he said.
Longleat said it has to satisfy its insurers that it has ‘taken all reasonable steps’ to protect the property, and they advised the control of access be improved.
It also said police had advised to step up security on the estate, which is notorious for crime like car break-ins. And also Longleat said it had concerns about health and safety with public access close to the safari park.
“In addition to those issues we have also had an ongoing and growing problem with a minority of irresponsible dog walkers who are failing to clear up after their pets and are also refusing to keep them under control in areas close to vulnerable wildlife,” he added.