Sorry to hear that you are having Go Ape problems. As a company they seem to be getting much more aggressive when looking for new sites. Early on they targeted relatively rural areas, miles away from urban conurbations but over the last 18 months they seem to have been looking for woodland near to large towns and cities (in the UK I’m talking about Rivington and Glasgow). Sadly, this means that they’re looking for just the unspoilt, quiet, areas that wildlife and the majority of local people regard as ‘their’ local patch of countryside. Looks like they are looking for the same type of sites in Australia!
A few points that we’ve learned from experience:
- Complain, and complain early. We were slow off the mark here in Rivington and the planning process was already well underway before we realised what was happening.
- The number of trees actually felled will be much larger than the number of trees that they say will need to be cut down in the planning application (in Rivington they claimed for 3 trees but 21 trees were actually cut down – more would have been cut down until we objected)
- Go Ape will stress their green, ethical credentials but remember that people swinging from trees does not encourage wildlife, and trees planted to replace any trees felled will take 100 years to grow.
- Go Ape will also make noises about encouraging new people to visit and appreciate the countryside. They might suggest that under-privileged people will benefit. Then they’ll charge £25 per person and admit that their target customer is middle or upper class (with plenty of spare cash).
- They can work the system. If your local planning procedure has any shortcuts, they know how to use them. They can schmooze to the local council and councillors and sound very persuasive.
- During the planning process, Go Ape may well claim that the their site is small, covering only a few hectares of land. This might allow them to fast-track the process. Check this out carefully. At Rivington the planning permission was based on the size of their log cabin and car park. The huge size of the course itself was never included – for the laughable reason that ‘it was in the air, not on the ground’.
- Beware of formal consultation taking place under the guise of a simple presentation. Many local councillors believed that they’d just witnessed a simple presentation but Go Ape were subsequently able to claim that this was part of a formal consultation process.
- Get in touch with your local councillors immediately and get them on-side with your group. We found many committees and councuillors who were prepared simply to nod though any proposal put in from of them. One local MP has been brilliant, some local councillors have been good, but many have been worse than useless!
- Get a website, and make press releases. But remember that Go Ape will be advertising with local press so there may be some bias against you.
That’s all I can think of for now, but keep in touch and let us know how you get on.