Westonbirt Project FAQs
What is the Westonbirt Project?
The Westonbirt Project will make a big difference to everybody who comes to the arboretum. It will create a better welcome, a better visit and a better understanding of the heritage and importance of our world class tree collection.
Forming Phase One of the Westonbirt Project, a new car park and Welcome Building will be constructed and the Grade I registered Downs landscape currently used for visitor car parking will be restored. The work is expected to last until summer 2014 and has started with the car park.
Phase Two will include a Treetop Walkway and Tree Management Centre. Fundraising and planning for the Phase Two is now underway.
What are the timescales?
Construction of the new car park started in January 2013 and will last until the summer. Construction of the Welcome Building and the start of the Downs landscape restoration will take place from summer 2013. The Welcome Building will open to visitors by summer 2014; however the new car park may be in operation during busier periods beforehand.
Where should visitors park during the construction period?
How will visitors benefit from the Westonbirt Project?
Visitors will benefit in a number of ways, including:
- Less queuing: Having parked in the car park, visitors will pay or show membership cards on foot as they pass through the Welcome Building.
- More information: Visitors can become a Friend of Westonbirt Arboretum, find out about workshops and events and discover the heritage and importance of the arboretum through new interpretation all in one place.
- Access to facilities: Mobility scooters and manual wheelchairs can be borrowed from the Welcome Building. The visitor information desk and toilets will also be located here.
- Closer to the arboretum: Visitors will access Silk Wood through Skilling Gate and the Old Arboretum through Down Gate; a closer link to both areas of the arboretum.
Will disabled access into the arboretum be improved?
The new car park location will create a shorter route to the Old Arboretum via Down Gate, and Silk Wood via Skilling Gate. The car park will more than double the number of spaces for disabled visitors, located close to the Welcome Building. Mobility scooters and manual wheelchairs will be available at the Welcome Building and will therefore be closer to the new car park, making it easier for visitors to collect these for use on their visit.
Will you retain the existing disabled spaces by Skilling Gate and the restaurant?
The existing disabled car parking spaces by the restaurant and Skilling Gate will be returned to grassland as part of the Grade I registered landscape restoration plan. The new car park will more than double the number of disabled car parking spaces at Westonbirt, with the new parking location just a few extra minutes walk from the restaurant or Skilling Gate entrance to Silk Wood. Mobility scooters and manual wheelchairs will be available at the Welcome Building and will therefore be closer to the new car park, making it easier for visitors to collect these for use on their visit.
The new Welcome Building and car park will be located further away from the restaurant/ cafe area; will this affect visitors' use of these facilities?
The Welcome Building will contain toilets, electric scooter/ manual wheelchair hire and information for people to use. Just 8% of visitors in a recent survey (sample size of 106 people) said having the restaurant and cafe located 300 metres away from the Welcome Building would change their use of these facilities. The majority of visitors surveyed use the cafe and restaurant at the end of their visit, so by entering the Old Arboretum at Down Gate or Silk Wood at Skilling Gate, visitors will naturally finish a route at these facilities.
How is the Westonbirt Project being funded?
We achieved the fundraising target for Phase One of the Westonbirt Project in late 2012. This money includes regular gifts spread over a five year period as well as cash gifts and pledges. The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum, Forestry Commission, Heritage Lottery Fund, Biffa Award, several trusts and foundations and over 130 individual givers have helped support the project. More information on funding and funders is available at www.westonbirtproject.co.uk, or in the spring issue of the Westonbirt Magazine.
How is the Westonbirt Project being delivered?
The project is being delivered in phases according to priority. The Welcome Building, car park and restoration of the Downs are essential for improving both visitor experience and our historic landscape. The second phase includes a Treetop Walkway and Tree Management Centre. Fundraising and planning for Phase Two is now underway.
Does the project have planning permission for the proposed developments?
Yes. Full planning permission for all of Phase One and elements of Phase Two of the project was granted in January 2011. More information is available at www.westonbirtproject.co.uk.
Won’t Westonbirt become too commercial?
No, we will make these improvements whilst maintaining the very special atmosphere we have now. The new facilities will impact on less than one acre of the 240 hectare/ 600 acre site. By moving the current car park off the Grade I registered Downs landscape, we’ll be giving more of this historic landscape back to visitors to enjoy.
Will the cost of admission rise to fund the Westonbirt Project’s developments?
The improvements will be funded through grants and donations; they will not be paid for by price increases.
Will the picnic areas be moved?
No, we will keep the picnic tables in their current location so visitors can enjoy picnicking on the Downs near to the existing catering facilities. We will add new picnic benches, including a wheelchair accessible bench, close to the new car park and Welcome Building.
Will there be an increase in traffic and queuing to enter the arboretum?
No, quite the opposite. The new car park and Welcome Building will ease the flow of traffic into the arboretum and reduce queuing. Admissions will be on foot through the Welcome Building, removing the current pay-from-car system. This will lead to less congestion on the main road.
How will these new developments affect the local area?
We anticipate that these developments will increase local tourism and bring new people to the area; this will support local businesses in many ways. The developments will also encourage new community involvement and increase volunteering opportunities.
Suppliers and services enquiries
If you represent a contractor enquiring about the provision of services or supplies to the Westonbirt Project, please visit the Forestry Commission’s web page for information on opportunities: www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/INFD-89KLSV.
How will we communicate the changes?
- Visitors: We have exhibition panels in the outdoor area of the learning centre from the start of the car park construction. This will explain the project, timescales and why we are undertaking the Westonbirt Project in more detail. Visitors can also sign up to receive Westonbirt’s monthly email newsletter, which will contain the latest information on the project. More information on the project and a link to the enewsletter can be found at www.westonbirtproject.co.uk.
- Media: We will work with contacts in the media to share updates.
- Friends: The Westonbirt Magazine, www.fowa.org.uk website and email newsletter will keep Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum up to date with news and milestones.
- Staff and volunteers: Monthly updated FAQs, update meetings and email updates are just some of the ways we will keep staff and volunteers informed.
Who can I contact to discuss any questions I have?
The Westonbirt Project website, www.westonbirtproject.co.uk is regularly updated with new information, so if you have internet access please check here for news and updates.
If you would like to ask a question we haven’t been able to answer, please email or call 01666 880220 and you will be directed to one of Westonbirt’s team.