Dear Gabrielle: Advice to Go Ape Protesters

Dear Gabrielle,
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.
Good luck,
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3 Responses to Dear Gabrielle: Advice to Go Ape Protesters

  1. David Pott says:

    Gabrielle has sent us this feeback:

    Thank you sooo much for your assistance . The information you have given me is fantastic. I knew Go-Ape would be an underhanded Company, not the least concerned with the environment. The North Rocks area ( Bidjigal Reserve) where this proposal is earmarked for, is in the Baulkham Hills Shire that takes in Castle Hill, Buena Vista and a number of other new developments. The whole area used to be orchards and dairy farms, and the reserve is one of a several that used to be part of the Cumberland State Forest, and with the construction of roads etc the reserves were set aside for passive recreation. The area now is smack bang in the middle of a very busy area and only minutes away from the City of Parramatta. So following their form, have cast their greedy eyes on the reserve as a good place to set up.

    You are on the money with this mob, they have enticed the Bidjigal Trust with $300,000 which would be used to look after the rest of the reserve…..it’s better to loose a small area for the good of all the rest.

    I suppose the Council’s in the UK work similar to here. What we had to do was, get enough objections into the Council otherwise, the development application (DA) would be handled by council officers as delegated authority, and not go to a full council meeting for the councillors to look at the proposal. I’m not sure what the numbers of objections are yet but I think we got over the line.

    I will provide your valuable information to the people involves in the fight. We intend to form into a group, we think we will call CRAG ( concerned residents against go-ape ). I don’t have any objections to my email going on the website.

    I don’t object to these types of adventure places, I think they are a good for family outings and a place where people can have fun, from little kids to old geezers…..although I note a man aged around 60 died while on one of the high tree rope walkways at one of the parks. But public reserves are not the places to build these parks. There are plenty of areas outside Sydney that have old farms with 10′s of acres of bushland, that Go-Ape could acquire for their parks. Ah, but that means they would have to buy them, so it seems buying up land is not on their agenda.

    Thank you again for your help and I will keep you up to date with our fight.

  2. Bob Dootson says:

    Some might call me an “old geezer”, but I’m not ready to kick the bucket yet (ask the wife).
    Get stuck in to them Gabrielle, rag them like a jack russell would rag a rat. ( for you Ausies, a jack russell is a fearless little dog,and when trained right will rag anything).
    Our venture has now been going on for over 12 months (doesn’t time fly when your having fun). It certainly slows down the ageing process and keeps the mind active, (it’s better than viagra).
    I would expect that we might get a Christmas card from the Council.
    I recently sent a BBQ invitation to the Chief Executive, (but she didn’t reply). I’ll send you the same one.
    With whats gone on, if you don’t laugh you could well cry. I’ve lost all faith in the system, from top to bottom. Starting at No 10 Downing street working its way down to Union street(council offices).

  3. Eileen Thomasson says:

    Hi Gabrielle,
    Good luck in your fight against Go Ape.What they have done in Rivington has been a complete and utter disgrace.They couldnt have found a more unsuitable place if they tried.It used to be a lovely walk along that footpath.You could sit by the reservoir and enjoy the peace and quiet except for the birds.Now all you hear is shouting,screaming and swearing.They have chopped trees down illegally, thus driving the wildlife away. All with the blessing of spineless, money grabbing Chorley council, who passed this application without proper public consultation.It seems to be a case of”Whoever pays the piper calls the tune”