Palacerigg Rationalisation


The newspaper story below concerns the Palacerigg Rationalisation and was published in the Cumbernauld News on 25th January 2006. It shows the depths of feeling which were stirred on the announcement of the "phasing out" of a large number of the species formerly kept at Palacecerigg Country Park.

The Palacerigg rationalisation was a marked change in direction for the park, and in spite of North Lanarkshire Council's defence, to my mind, you only have to compare the cost of keeping carnivores with the cost of keeping a variety of herbiferous animals and birds to see where the main drive for change originated. I leave you to read the article and draw your own conclusions.


Animal tragic

Published Date: 25 January 2006

PALACERIGG Country Park is to lose the bulk of its animals - in a rushed-through ruling which was expected to be given the green light at North Lanarkshire Council headquarters today (Wednesday).

The famous reindeer, owls, wildcat, silver fox and pine martens are to be "gradually phased out'' at the park which was gifted to the people of Cumbernauld as a green space where new town dwellers could enjoy the natural surroundings which bordered their homes. At its helm was naturalist David Stephen who introduced exotic species including wolves, now long gone, - and many nature lovers feel that his legacy has been neglected.

And this latest development at the community services committee meeting today is unlikely to disabuse them of that notion. The papers state: "The purpose of this report is to bring members' attention to the need to rationalise the Palacerigg Country Park animal collection to conform fully with recent European directives, to achieve a more efficient and productive use of resources and to provide a more focussed and sustainable contribution to wildlife and animal conservation."

These go on to state that the current animal population at Palacerigg involves the implementation of "increasingly unsustainable working practices and in recent years, European directives have placed increasing restrictions and more onerous requirements on zoos,'' - in what is an allusion to detailed scientific research, more regular inspections and an increase in breeding programmes.

The report then states that these goals "are not realistically achievable'' at Palacerigg - and that NLC would be following the lead of many other local authorities who were handing over the work to highly specialised conservation agencies. Locals have been promised however that Palacerigg will now concentrate its resources principally on the development and maintenance of its rare breeds livestock collection. And the council is at pains to point out that it could realistically become what it refers to a THE major rare breeds conservation location in Scotland within two years.

But this has not placated Palacerigg's councillor William Homer who has written to NLC's chief executive Gavin Whitefield to complain about being kept in the dark.

Councillor Homer said: "This is something I knew nothing about - I had absolutely no idea. The first I heard of it was when I read the agenda for the community services meeting.

"What seems to have been forgotten is the fact that Palacerigg is part of Cumbernauld's heritage. "If there was the will to keep these animals, there are ways round that," said Councillor Homer who feels that the council is merely using the European directive as a smokescreen which will give greater legitimacy to the reduction of investment within Cumbernauld. And he has also dismissed the suggestion that Palacerigg will take on an equally rewarding role as a rare breeds centre. "I am quite sceptical about whether that will happen" said the councillor - who feels that this is a means of trying to placate Cumbernauld people who deplore the fact that its existing animal population will be greatly depleted.

"I'm hearing that they are building new public toilets up there but don't know why they are bothering because there will really be nothing up at Palacerigg for people to see," he said. Another Cumbernauld councillor, Gordon Murray has expressed his disgust. He was a friend of the late David Stephen, and has been a stern critic of what he views as NLC's wilful neglect of Palacerigg. Several years ago, Councillor Murray took exception to the fact that books gifted to the people of Cumbernauld by Mr Stephen had not ended up in local libraries as he had wanted - but were discovered gathering dust in a disused part of the residential quarters at Palacerigg.

Now Councillor Murray has accused the council of lying to the people of Cumbernauld. He said he was particularly aghast at the council's insistence that Palacerigg was connected with various rare breed societies - as so many of the animals they are involved with are no longer present at the park. "This is pure spin," he said. "To claim that Palacerigg has connections with organisations like the Eriskay Pony Society and the Shetland Cattle Breeders Association is nonsense - these animals disappeared from Palacerigg years ago. But there is no doubt about the fact that North Lanarkshire Council just does not want to be involved with the work needed to maintain these animals and it is just another example of the cuts that have affected Cumbernauld in recent years."

Blane Dodds, head of cultural and leisure services at NLC said: "The rationalisation of animals at Palacerigg Country Park is absolutely necessary to keep the facility abreast of legislative changes and to define clear, measurable and achievable objectives for the animal collection according to recent European Directives.

"The implementation of the recommendations which have now been approved by committee will be carried out with the care and welfare of the animal collection as a paramount consideration. Less than 10 per cent of the animal collection is affected by the changes, and it will still hold extensive populations of endangered Boreray and North Ronaldsay sheep, Bagot goats, White Park cattle, rare breed pigs, Eriskay ponies, Scots Grey and Scots Dumpy poultry, so it is unfair to suggest there will be "nothing" or "very little" to see.

"It is also appropriate that the management of the country park take account of the fitness of keeping animals - particularly intelligent predators like carnivores and birds of prey - in cages. What was considered acceptable 30 years ago is not necessarily acceptable now - many people nowadays prefer to see this type of wildlife in the wild."

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