Abington villagers pledge to buy campsite

Scout campsite on Church Lane, Little Abington,
Scout campsite on Church Lane, Little Abington,
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Residents of the Abingtons and opponents to the sale of Little Abington Campsite have agreed to unite to bid to buy the site.

Cambridgeshire Scouts wishes to sell the site and plans to reinvest the cash in a more central campsite.

Scout campsite on Church Lane, Little Abington,

Scout campsite on Church Lane, Little Abington,

The charity was given planning permission by South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC) to build three bungalows on the site and use the cash raised to revamp the existing headquarters, but following a change of the county hierarchy instead decided to sell the site entirely, which would leave Abington Jeremiah Scouts troop without a meeting place.

Opponents to the sale met at a fiery meeting at the Great Abington Institute last night (THursday, May 16), and agreed to trigger the community right to buy.

That will give them six months to table a bid for the campsite, with Cambridgeshire Scouts believed to want around £400,000 for the site.

However, SCDC Cllr Tony Orgee agreed to look into rescinding the original planning permission as it was given on the understanding money would be reinvested in the site, not that it would be sold.

If successful, the value of the site would likely be less than £100,000.

At a packed public meeting, chaired by Little Abington Parish Council chairman Peter Brunning, it was explained that residents were endeavouring to get the site listed as a protected green space with Cambridgeshire County Council and SCDC.

Cllr Orgee said he ‘confidently expects’ it will achieve such status in the SCDC local plan due out on June 3.

Friends of Abington Campsite (FACS), which organised the meetings, wants to at least delay the sale under ownership of the campsite is confirmed, as they dispute that the county owns it and thus has the right to sell it.

Carol Alderton, one of the Scout leaders, said they are ‘determined to keep the out in scouting’, and that although Cambridgeshire Scouts had offered to cover the removal costs for them they would not fund a new headquarters for them.

Nick Hindley said he believes that if utilised well the site could generate £200,000 in 60 days by hosting corporate events and make £792,000 within a few years.

“They say the site is financially unviable – I don’t get that, the site is financially viable,” he said.

Nobody from the current Cambridgeshire Scouts hierarchy was there, but previous commissioner Richard Hames was.

He confirmed the charity had been given a grant of around £75,000 specifically for improvements to the site, and that although it generally made a profit of £9,000 annually, this was not enough to keep the buildings fit for purpose.

When asked why people from the hierarchy were not at the meeting, he said: “They probably find it difficult to defend their position.

“They probably want to divest the site because it’s a hassle.”

Malcolm Fryer said: ”I feel we’ve been conned-we were happy to accept the original planning permission as we knew they needed the money.”

Howard Davies said: “Money should not be the moat important thing – the value of things like this cannot be measured in pounds.”

Pennie Zimmern said it is ‘shameful’ that Cambridgeshire Scouts is threatening leaders with revoking their warrants for whistle blowing in opposing the sale

The biggest applause of the night came for scout Joseph Knight, who set up a petition against the sale that quickly attracted more than 1,500 signatures.

“I felt strongly against it and feel the county commissioner doesn’t care how young people feel so we should work together to protect it,” he said.

The group will now have until November to raise the cash and bid for the site.

For all the full story and latest news see Thursday’s (May 23) Echo.