National Trust will reopen Lion Gates at Belton House, Grantham, in July
The National Trust says it will reopen the Lion Gates entrance to the grounds of Belton House next month after local people voiced their anger at their closure.
The trust closed the gates, on Belton Lane, recently to 'reduce damage' in the parkland and for the 'safety of visitors and staff'.
But local residents who have used the gates for free entry for many years were angered and disappointed by the decision and called on the National Trust to change it mind.
A peaceful protest planned for this weekend for local people to voice their opposition to the closure has now been called off.
The National Trust now says that the gates will reopen with additional security next month and there will be 'managed access' in the future which will provide 'much needed charitable income'.
Ian Cooper, general manager for the National Trust at Belton House, said “The Belton team has listened, and we understand the strength of feeling resulting from the closure of the Lion Gates.
"Our position continues to be that we will put in place managed access in the future, however we are happy to confirm that we will be re-opening the gates for local walkers in the interim once additional signage and security measures have been installed in July.
“While most people visiting the estate via the Lion Gates do so respectfully, prior to the gates being closed a minority were causing significant, almost daily, disruption through anti-social behaviour. This included damage to the grade I listed parkland, verbal abuse towards our team, and disturbance to wildlife like Belton’s deer herd. We will therefore be monitoring this situation closely to ensure a duty of care to this special place, working with our local supporters to keep the Lion Gates open.
“We have seen a significant increase in visitors via Lion Gates in recent years, the majority of whom are arriving by car. This has put increased pressure on Belton’s grade I listed parkland as well as the facilities across the estate. Establishing a managed access point will provide Belton with much needed charitable income to continue conserving this historic landscape and to maintain the property to a high standard.
“We are working in partnership with Woodland Trust, supported by National Lottery Heritage Fund, on the Reconnecting Grantham project which seeks to improve access for the people of Grantham to Bellmount and Londonthorpe Woods while supporting conservation and local wildlife. These areas are free to visit, dogs are welcome off-lead in Bellmount Woods, and free car parking is available at Londonthorpe Woods on Five Gates Lane.”
Deborah Green, who had organised the protest for this weekend, said: "We will keep a watchful eye on what is going on and continue monitoring the situation. I have called off the protest and we will leave it for now. But if we feel the gates are not being opened we will not let it go."
Asked about the 'managed access' to be introduced at the gates, Deborah said: "It indicates to me that this is about money which is fine as it is a charity. I think it will be managed in the same way it is in Belton village so we will have to wait and see what we will do about that."
Grantham county and district councillor Linda Wootten said: "I am pleased that after meeting Mr Cooper, the general manager of the Belton House National Trust, on behalf of local concerned residents regarding the closure of the Lion Gates , the Trust has reconsidered their planned closure and the gates will be opened once again in July, subject to certain conditions. This is good news."