As Chair of the Lickey Hills Society (LHS), I would like to respond to the letter from John A Ridarta in your September edition.
The letter is headed “Lickeys must be protected” and I am sure that everyone would agree. However, I am not clear what they need to be protected from. Mr Ridarta mentions developers but during my 30 years of involvement with the LHS, I am not aware of any development within the Country Park. The only significant building has been the popular and well-used Visitor Centre in Warren Lane, which opened in 1990.
There has been much development in Cofton Hackett, but this has had a limited effect on the Lickey Hills Country Park. It is important to distinguish between the very rural nature of the Country Park and the more suburban nature of Cofton Hackett.
Mr Ridarta asks who manages the Lickeys. The simple answer is that Birmingham City Council owns, manages and finances the Country Park. The bulk of the park is within Bromsgrove District Council’s area but neither they nor Worcestershire County Council make any financial or other contribution to its management, although many of the estimated half a million visitors each year live in these areas.
The majority of country parks in the UK are managed by local authorities rather than by organisations like English Heritage as suggested in the letter. Like all local authorities, Birmingham has faced severe budget cuts in recent years and the Parks Department has not been immune.
However, the importance of the Lickeys has been recognised – it was the first park in Birmingham to receive the Green Flag Award in 2000, a national excellence award for parks and green open spaces, which it has attained every year since. As a consequence the cuts faced by the Country Park have been minimal when compared to other parks in the city.
Many years ago, the Lickey Hills Consultative Committee was formed, composed of park users and local residents who meet throughout the year to consider all aspects relating to the management of the Country Park. Its formation was encouraged by the city council and it is seen as an example of good practice; subsequently a number of similar groups have been established in city parks.
The day-to-day and long-term planning for the Country Park is in the hands of a highly-qualified, experienced and excellent Ranger team based on the Lickeys. The team also has a responsibility for some 60 parks and green open spaces in the south-west of Birmingham.
The Rangers are supported by organisations like the LHS and an army of volunteers who give their time, energy and expertise.
Mr Ridarta correctly mentions the likely introduction of car parking fees, currently being considered. Once charges are introduced and all restoration costs have been met, we have been assured that monies raised will stay within the Country Park, for ongoing maintenance of the car parks, helping towards safeguarding the jobs of the Rangers and others and that there will be finances available to spend on equipment and projects.
It is important to remember that visiting the Country Park will remain free and that the charge will only be levied on the parking of vehicles.
I trust that the above will help to answer some of the points raised in the letter and that the LHS and many others will continue to work to help ensure that the Lickeys, one of Birmingham’s flagship parks, are indeed protected for the benefit of this and future generations.
Mike Brooke, Chair of Lickey Hills Society