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Gloucestershire Business News

Lady Bathurst 'bullied' over charges plan for tourists to Cirencester Park

Lady Bathurst of Cirencester Park today issued an extraordinary Facebook post over an ongoing row about proposals to charge tourists entering the estate.

The Bathurst family has run the Grade I listed estate since 1695 and the estate has applied to install three electronic gates with card readers so tourists can be charged a "modest" fee for access,

A planning application to fit automatic gate closers, electric keeps and keypads to the existing pedestrian gates at Cecily Hill, The Old Kennels Windsor Walk and Barton Lane has been lodged with Cotswold District Council.

The BBC reported that the estate said local residents would retain free access, and it wants to use the fees to sustain the park for future generations by installing new facilities, including a visitor centre and toilets.

However, this morning, Lady Bathurst issued an emotional post on the 'Cirencester - A Local Town for Local People' Facebook group.

She said it had been alluded to in the local and wider press that the changes at Cirencester Park were all her doing but she said the access changes were not her idea, nor were they her decision.

She said: "The blame is now being placed at my door, and I cannot allow that to happen and I'm getting scant support from the estate office who seem to be perfectly happy for me to shoulder the blame, so I shall have to fight my own battles.

"If truth be told, they were also not my choice and I have been very unhappy about it - but the decision was made and as I have no say in the management of the estate, there was nothing I could do. I am uncomfortable with the growing belief that this is all my doing. It is not.

"It has led to some of the worst online bullying and libellous claims I have ever experienced. So much so that I am seriously contemplating taking things further. The abuse over the last few days has been personal, extremely painful and deeply upsetting.

"Our CEO Peter Clegg is the author of the initiative and I do not want to have the blame laid at my door. If you have any further comments, please direct them to him at the estate office.

"Going forward - I will make no further comments on anything to do with the estate and its management. Please direct all complaints, queries or questions to the estate office. Not me here."

Cotswold District Council has received a number of objections to the proposal, including comments over how free access would remain for Cirencester residents, which they have had since the 17th Century.

Cirencester resident Michael Grace said: "My objection is based on the fact that although there is a vague statement to preserve free access to the site for local people, there is no detail as to how this is to be achieved, or how long it is to be maintained. I speak as one who was born in the town and lived here for 78 years."

Another resident, Gemma Allerton, said: "I am concerned by the loss to the tourist industry to Cirencester due to this. Many people come to the town to walk this and many will be put off by the locked gates/not knowing they can go to the visitor centre or not wanting to pay for the service. The town has lost valuable shops that would have brought in tourists so this may add to that and Cirencester may suffer as a town."

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