Many people in the village have been disappointed at the closure of the much used footpath along the old mineral railway track by the Scout Camp. The District Commissioner, Alec Stanworth has been contacted and his explanation as to the measures taken is below:
‘Thank you for your messages regarding access to Horley Scout Campsite. My name is Alec Stanworth, and I’m the District Commissioner for North Oxfordshire Scouts. In this volunteer role, I have responsibility for the management of the campsite on the land that we lease at Horley.
May I begin by apologising for the frustration that restricting access has caused. I am aware that historically, informal arrangements have existed in which we have allowed access to the land to local residents for recreational purposes.
The land is however privately owned, without any public rights of way. Prior to the developing Covid-19 situation, we have instructed our volunteer wardens to query members of the public who are not members of The Scout Association, or other approved users of the site that hold bookings with us.
Our reasoning for doing so is that we have a duty to safeguard our youth members. In a similar fashion to all schools that operate on closed premises with restricted access, we conduct the highest level of enhanced DBS checks on all of our volunteers, and monitor who is on site at all times.
Unfortunately, despite our attempts to increase signage indicating that the land is private property, we have found that these have often been vandalised or removed entirely. The costs incurred from further damage to property and facilities on site have understandably been an unwelcome expenditure for our charity.
I acknowledge that these acts arise from a very small number of visitors, and that the vast majority have always treated the local environment with the greatest respect.
However, in recent weeks, as the government introduced social distancing measures, our wardens reported multiple instances of gatherings of between 10-15 people on the campsite. None of these relate to Scouting, as The Scout Association suspended all face-to-face activities on 17th March. In order to protect our resident wardens, a decision was taken to further restrict access to the site.
Whilst we of course all hope that Covid-19 passes as quickly as possible, once social distancing measures are relaxed, my team and I still need to consider appropriate safeguards. I understand that it feels counter-intuitive for an organisation that encourages enjoyment of the outdoors to instead restrict access to it. Nevertheless, we are required to ensure that the actvities we offer are conducted in a safe environment.
In liaising with the Horley Parish Clerk, I am committed to continuing to monitor and review the situation. I accept that we do not have a perfect solution to offer at present, and always remain open to alternative ideas, and on-going improvements.
May I thank those that have already made contact with suggestions and offers of assistance. ‘
North Oxfordshire Scouts