A newly revealed joint proposal between the Avon Wildlife Trust and Forest of Imagination could see the Entry Hill golf course site in Bath transformed into a “sustainable” and “wildlife-rich” community park with an added nature and art discovery centre.
The latest proposal for the site will see Entry Hill become the permanent home for Forest of Imagination, a pop-up arts event.
Plans will see the site being opened up, making it accessible for all with increased walking and cycling opportunities.
The proposal details how “this inclusivity will help connect local communities and visitors to nature and the wider landscape.”
A new “landmark” facility will house a cafe, flexible-use hall and creative studio space.
One of the main purposes of the new park will be to “aid a green recovery for Bath”, by creating a “nature-rich landscape with a mixture of connected habitats”.
The proposal describes how Entry Hill will act as a “green lung” for residents and local businesses, creating a unique space to benefit health and wellbeing.
Events are planned to address mental and physical health, and a number of walking and cycling trails have been proposed.
Routes could be created across the site, allowing access from Wellsway to Entry Hill through the space.
The new park would feature art and sculpture, “engaging large numbers of people with the climate crisis and ecological emergency”.
Ian Barrett, Avon Wildlife Trust’s CEO said: “As the Council has recognised, we’re facing a climate and nature emergency locally as well as globally, with accelerating declines in wildlife undermining the natural systems on which we depend.
“Entry Hill presents an opportunity to bring wildlife back into the heart of the city. Bath is an internationally important area for wildlife so a nature reserve at Entry Hill could provide a vital link in the “wildlife corridors” needed across the city to support nature’s recovery.
“Opening the site to the public will enable people to get closer to nature, and have enormous health benefits for local residents and visitors.
“We’re excited about the possibility of working with Forest of Imagination and House of Imagination to create a nature-rich sculpture park, with arts-based activities.
“If our proposal is accepted, we want to talk with local residents so we can develop a site that works for everyone. This project will put a significant building block in place in tackling the climate and nature emergency in Bath.”
Andrew Grant, Co-founder of Forest of Imagination, added: “This is a unique opportunity to bring nature and art together to create a real statement about our relationship with the natural world whilst unlocking the potential of this site to be enjoyed by our wider community and visitors to the city.
“It is very exciting to imagine developing this Nature and Art Discovery centre where you could visit the very best contemporary outdoor sculpture in a wildlife rich environment.”
Bath & North East Somerset Council owns the Entry Hill golf course site, which is currently run by Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) under the ‘Better’ brand.
Amy Coulthard, Avon Wildlife Trust’s Director of Conservation, said: “I believe an outdoor nature and art park such as the one proposed by Avon Wildlife Trust, Forest of Imagination and House of Imagination will be needed now more than ever as the peak of the pandemic passes and we face up to a global nature and climate emergency.
“Entry Hill will become be a place of recovery for people and nature. Somewhere people can rebuild connections with each other, and experience the healing power of art, creativity and time spent in nature.”
Dr Penny Hay, Forest of Imagination Co-founder, added: “Art, creativity and nature are central to our wellbeing as a community.
“A designated centre for art and nature would highlight the importance of our imagination and our connection to nature, especially at this time, and to inspire future generations to care for our environment.”
A consultation was launched last December after B&NES Council said use of the golf course had declined in recent years and there was potential for other uses for the site that could attract larger numbers of people and have wider health benefits.
News of the joint proposal has been welcomed on social media, with one resident saying “it’s a great idea and much better than a golf course”.
Critics of the plan said it is “well intentioned but hugely expensive” and would instead “be suited to the Approach Golf Course adjacent to Victoria Park where it would make a very sensible addition to the facilities”.
A resident close to Entry Hill said: “My fear is that this project may start and then will fail after perhaps a year or two leaving a complete mess and ultimately a burden for the council.”
Last month, the Bath Echo reported on another proposal for the site, which would see Entry Hill remain as a golf course and taken on by a sportsground design and maintenance company, Greensward Sports Consultancy. The company propose taking on the management and maintenance of the course in an “economically viable and sustainable manner”.
A previous petition to save the golf course gained over 1000 signatures.
The Avon Wildlife Trust and Forest of Imagination are now preparing an outline business case which they will put forward mid-July.
The joint proposal will be up against two others for the site, including from Greensward to keep it running as a golf course, which will be discussed at a B&NES Council Cabinet meeting on 22nd July.