Gloucestershire

Campaigners move in to Wilderness Centre in Mitcheldean

Campaigners have moved into a disused environmental education centre, which has been closed since being put up for sale by the council last year.

Gloucestershire County Council wants to sell the Wilderness Centre in Mitcheldean as it needs to save money.

A group called Protect the Wilderness has moved on to the site saying it intends to host educational events.

Spokesman Thom Forester said they were "not squatters", and they wanted to reopen the centre to the public.

Mr Forester said the group of 12 campaigners had "decided to take matters into our own hands".

He said the group would be offering public activities such as wild food foraging, blacksmithing, basketry and yoga.

Separate group

"The centre is empty. There are buildings here that could be used for educational purposes that are lying dormant," he said.

"It is falling into disrepair. We're going to open it for the next weeks, months and hopefully years.

"People are going to be educated here, otherwise it would just be empty."

A separate campaign group, Friends of the Wilderness, challenged the council's decision to close the centre last year in the High Court, but the challenge failed.

It is currently in discussions with the council about buying the centre with a view to reopening it.

County council leader, Councillor Mark Hawthorne, said: "We have twice delayed the sale of this centre in order to help the local interest group Friends of the Wilderness Centre in their bid to take over this building.

"I doubt whether these people who have occupied some of the buildings on site are local or have the interests of the centre at heart.

"Unfortunately, this now means that council taxpayers will have to foot the bill for any additional security that is needed and for hefty legal costs if we have to go through the courts to get them to leave the site."

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