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When will the project be completed?

As a result of complexities within the project, the updated schedule for completion has been extended from Winter 2024 to Spring 2026.

The project will likely resubmit the planning application in the summer of 2024 for committee consideration in October 2024. There will then be a tender period and appointment of contractors. The expected completion date is to be extended from Winter 2024 to Spring 2026.

Why has the project been extended?

The decision to withdraw the planning application was made based on feedback from the planning team and objections from consultation. Biodiversity Net Gain requirements became mandatory in January 2024, and can only be done at some times of the year, therefore the need for this survey has extended the completion date of this project.

How much is the full scheme costing?

There is a budget of £2.9 million. Other funding sources continue to be investigated to ensure the quality of the outcome remains high.

What is Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)?

CIL is a charge that local authorities can set on new development to raise funds to help fund the infrastructure, facilities and services needed to support new homes and businesses. This can be used on significant projects and for the country park, can be used in areas that our consultation has revealed to be important to users. This includes play areas, safety fencing, lighting, surveys, pathways and planting

How many additional parking spaces will there be after the project is completed?

There will be 118 new spaces, plus dedicated motorbike parking and cycle racks. The existing car park will be marked with lines identifying approximately 70 spaces as this will encourage better parking.

What will be the cafe opening times?

This will vary during the seasons, but there will be opportunities for evening events as the improved lighting and closer car park facilities will make the site more appealing during the evenings.

How are you encouraging improvements in health?

The paths will be upgraded for a smoother ride for those in wheelchairs and pushchairs, to ensure everyone can benefit their mental health by enjoying the outdoors.

Active travel is positively encouraged - the bike storage facilities will be increased for users on site. There will be additional locations next to the play areas too. The signage indicating routes through the park is being upgraded and maps of the local area will be produced.

The location of the play zones encourages families to walk further between the areas.

The frequency and range of activities on offer will increase as there will be more parking.

In 2023 the first ever Santa's Grotto specifically for deaf children occurred and the weekend for young people with additional needs was a huge success with children from both groups being inspired.

The established foundations for volunteer placements continue to be expanded to involve people of all ages and abilities.

What are the impacts of the changes on the wildlife?

There have been several surveys undertaken in the production of the plans to create the baseline and identify species, concerns and potential impacts, for example, tree roots have been identified and work will be undertaken to minimise compaction of the soil around them

The overall aim is to increase bio-diversity. Inevitably some disruption will occur, but this will be minimised for example undertaking work under the guidance of ecologists and at times to minimise the impact.

There will be visible changes on site including the number of habitat piles, bird and bat boxes, and the amount of hedging and planting. Much of this already happens as a matter of course as the rangers and volunteers go about their work to ensure the site is one for everyone to enjoy.

Every year, at least 300 trees are planted. This is to ensure there is a good age structure and a variety of species in different locations. For any trees that are felled as part of the project, more will be planted.

How were the play areas funded?

The extension of the play facilities at the park were funded by Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).

How will they benefit the park's users?

These four new areas were designed to complement the park's own range of different habitats. Each new zone will encourage social interaction, imaginative play, and exploration of the natural world alongside physical activity in children of all ages.

Is the new equipment made from sustainable materials?

Yes! Much of the new equipment is made from sustainably sourced hardwood and carefully chosen recycled and natural materials. With a natural lifespan of 50 years, the timber is strong, durable and fully recyclable after usage.

How were the new locations chosen and will there be any impact on existing habitats?

The four areas were selected on the basis that this was where children were naturally already playing. By spacing out the new sites, we hope to encourage more movement and further exploration of the park. The impact on existing habits will be minimal.

When will the play areas open?

The play areas are now completed and open. To follow up on the completion of the new play provision at the park, new benches are scheduled to be installed towards the end of 2022 with new and improved pathways scheduled as part of the wider investment project.

Are there more changes planned for Hinchingbrooke Country Park?

Installation of the new play areas is part of a wider project, announced in March 2022, that will see £3 million invested in enhancing facilities within the park. Details of the proposed enhancements to parking, the visitor centre and cafe facilities, pathways, and cycle routes will be shared in a public exhibition in Summer 2022.

How inclusive and accessible will the new play areas be?

Play area design has evolved significantly since the existing play equipment was installed in the park. Research now shows that supporting all children to play together – those with and without additional needs – benefits all areas of childhood development. This is best achieved by providing play space and play material that doesn’t hinder, but promotes inclusive play situations.

As a district council, we have made a commitment to developing an “Everyone Welcome standard to ensure people of all ages and abilities can access parks, open spaces and play areas”. This sits as part of our focus on shaping the future of our parks, open spaces and play, and is included within the 10-year action plan driving our Healthy Open Spaces Strategy.

With inclusivity and accessibility at the forefront of our design brief, some specialist play equipment will arrive during the initial installation period, with further, fully wheelchair accessible equipment arriving in the summer. Temporary pathways will provide access to the new play areas, before being formalised as part of wider improvement works within the park.

How does this work impact the current car parking provision?

We understand that at peak times, areas within and around the car park can be extremely busy. Therefore we will continue to work with community leaders to encourage responsible parking from visitors of Hinchingbrooke Country Park, supporting residents with advisory notices on the approach to the park itself.

We continue to work with Hinchingbrooke Hospital who are kind enough to allow us to promote the use of their car park for peak times. The current parking provision is identified as an area of enhancement for the wider investment project. Whilst finalising this, we will work with local police and community leaders to reinforce our responsible parking message and request that dangerous parking is addressed.