Q on FAQs: full text of email query 30 Jan 2013, followed by answers 03 February 2013

Subject: Objective responses to your comments and information...

Hi, just found this site and was intrigued by the set up. as an ex resident of cheddar i wondered if this site was open to reasoned debate/query on the biased nature of some of the one sided FAQ responses. Whilst i understand the intention and would hate for the gorge i remember to be ruined it still seems that the information on the site is not entirely for objective reasoning. If you looked into the detail of the business income and turnover and the number of businesses in the gorge that have changed hands numerous times(45+) you would realise that a decrease in yearly visitors from 250K a year to 50k a year the need for a reason for people to come to the gorge is needed to save these directly affected businesses and the businesses nearby that take a percentage of their income from tourism created by gorge visitors. I have feeling that too many people with small minded views on the future of cheddar gorge are missing the point, for longleat it is a financial move but the money they will spend will take decades to recoup it is about legacy and the chance to keep cheddar gorge as a tourist attraction and not just an alternative route to bristol. those that live in the village will be no more or less affected by the tourist's than they are now, if they want there slice of middle class village life they probably should not have moved to such an obvious tourist area. sure the schools are good and the areas is nice but why be surprised when commercialism is involved in saving a dwindling tourist attraction.

Why be afraid of progress, sure matlock bath has plenty of bikers but cheddar has 3/4 biker meets every year and various bike rallys passing through. it is not fair to say thats all the cable car has done for matlock bath as i am sure it is not remotely related to bikers.

anyway my real query was would you consider the ability to respond to your FAQs on the site and allow people to hear an objective view? just a thought

Regards
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“As an ex resident of cheddar i wondered if this site was open to reasoned debate/query on the biased nature of some of the one sided FAQ responses. Whilst i understand the intention and would hate for the gorge i remember to be ruined it still seems that the information on the site is not entirely for objective reasoning.”............. “Anyway my real query was would you consider the ability to respond to your FAQs on the site and allow people to hear an objective view?”

  • KCG does not want to compete with other pre-existing websites which already cater for debates and different opinions, so KCG will not become a discussion forum.  Links to online discussions, letters and local groups are easy to find on the excellent Cheddar Village website.   In practice, many Cheddar residents seem to prefer to discuss things between friends, or in one of the local groups actively seeking to build a successful and prosperous future for the village.  KCG supporters, as individuals, make full contributions to many of these groups.
  • KCG tries to ensure that the website is factually correct, evidence-based and the sources quoted.  We welcome any different opinions on the same basis, i.e. factual evidence with referenced sources.  The KCG website aims to provide information about planning and development in relation to the gorge's natural landscape and wildlife.  This focus is because KCG is an environmental campaign group set up to prevent a cable car in the gorge from spoiling Cheddar's greatest asset, which is its beautiful natural landscape and wildlife.

“If you looked into the detail of the business income and turnover and the number of businesses in the gorge that have changed hands numerous times(45+) you would realise that a decrease in yearly visitors from 250K a year to 50k a year the need for a reason for people to come to the gorge is needed to save these directly affected businesses and the businesses nearby that take a percentage of their income from tourism created by gorge visitors.”

  • Figures of this sort cannot be interpreted fully without sources, dates, and a lot more besides.  Presumably the visitor numbers come from Cheddar Caves & Gorge, covering a period of decades.  As one life-long Cheddar resident and retired trader has pointed out to KCG, people can now go abroad cheaply and easily to places with better weather etc.  As he said, during recent decades everything has changed. Flexibility is needed in the face of these wider changes.  KCG believes that the greatest chance of future prosperity will be earned by those businesses which respect the natural world, accept natural limits, and keep within the further constraints set by environmental law and planning regulations.
  • Cheddar gorge businesses seeking reliable profits long-term will achieve that only if they develop sustainable business models and resilient plans for the future, not by wholly relying on what Longleat does or does not choose to do.  Fixing on the cable car as a magical solution won't help the businesses in trouble.  Any business plan requires a comprehensive and totally honest examination of everything that may be contributing to persistent difficulties, (or increasing the effect of serious temporary problems such as road closure).  That sort of detailed business focus is not within KCG's function, except to say that struggling businesses are not entitled to expect their businesses to be saved by ruining the gorge landscape and wildlife, which are of great local, national and international environmental value, and on which other Cheddar businesses depend.

“I have feeling that too many people with small minded views on the future of cheddar gorge are missing the point, for longleat it is a financial move but the money they will spend will take decades to recoup it is about legacy and the chance to keep cheddar gorge as a tourist attraction and not just an alternative route to bristol.

  • Mild insults, such as calling people 'small-minded', do not help your argument.  KCG gets the point but disagrees.  KCG believes that attempts to keep Cheddar gorge as a tourist attraction must be environmentally sound and consistent with all planning laws and regulations intended to protect the environment.
  • Any claims that the cable car proposal would be a chance to keep Cheddar gorge as a tourist attraction are highly questionable, for business reasons as well as for environmental reasons.  Businesses do not usually hold back from making profits simply to allow weaker businesses nearby to get a bite at their cherry.  Why should they?  Businesses do have to make a profit after all, so why do you expect Longleat to choose to take decades to recoup on its investments?  Have you actually seen their business plan saying so?   Businesses usually seek to recoup their investments with at least decent profits, as soon as possible, and they need to maintain those profits in every subsequent year, even if it is at the expense of other businesses nearby. 
  • Leaving aside the prospects of smaller businesses in the gorge, there are equally difficult questions for the Longleat business itself.  The most likely outcome of a cable car is that things would improve for a while and then fade away, just like they did with the various caves' investments.  What are they going to do differently enough this time to make it likely that Longleat's own visitor numbers and profits would be sustained over the long term? 
  • Historically, each new development in the gorge has led to an ever greater loss of the wild character of the place, which directly undermines the original and enduring reason for people coming here.  Perhaps the partial loss of wildness that has already occurred might be part of the present business problems.   If the gorge's wild character is lost more, why would anyone choose to come here then?   Is there any way that, where the wild character has been damaged, it could be retrieved, or at least not further lost?  Certainly, planning rules are intended to safeguard and extend existing natural landscapes and wildlife habitats.
  • Nobody is saying it is easy to run a business, or easy to survive in the present challenging circumstances, or to do so in the context of such a strictly protected natural environment.  These exceptionally difficult business fundamentals have to be tackled by the people concerned, whose businesses are directly affected, in consultation with their business advisers or peer groups etc.   KCG's purpose is to insist that the businesses must work within environmental limits and related environmental law constraints.

“.....those that live in the village will be no more or less affected by the tourist's than they are now...”

  • Again, KCG begs to differ.  Different kinds of tourism have different impacts. Sensational attractions, aiming at high day visit numbers by people arriving in cars and coaches, e.g. from one of the new Longleat hotels elsewhere, would have very different impacts to lower profile tourist businesses catering for visitors staying a night or two, or a little longer e.g. for a half-term week, and perhaps arriving by bike, or walking from their B&B, or self-catering flat or caravan.
  • The percentage of tourists using each different method of transport makes a huge difference to those that live in the village because of the differences in the amount and type of traffic generated.
  • If a tourism proposal has adverse effects on the natural landscape and wildlife in Cheddar gorge, everyone in the village will be adversely affected too, in one way or another.  Any adverse impact on the wild landscape and wildlife would be a great loss to people who find interest, peace and inspiration from it.  Some of those people are tourists, who would just stop coming if the wild character of the place is spoilt any more.

“.... if they want there slice of middle class village life they probably should not have moved to such an obvious tourist area...”

  • What is the factual basis for this comment?   Who are you talking about?  If your remark is intended to apply to KCG supporters, it is quite simply wrong.  KCG supporters include long-standing Cheddar residents, people who are Cheddar born-and-bred, or who are directly or indirectly involved in local tourism businesses.  Whoever you are talking about, this sort of accusatory remark does not help your argument.  It is completely irrelevant to debates about how to comply with environmental planning regulations and yet, at the same time, secure resilient, sustainable and prosperous tourism enterprises for the future.

“........why be surprised when commercialism is involved in saving a dwindling tourist attraction?”

  • KCG supporters are not surprised by commercial proposals intended to save dwindling tourist attractions, but KCG is insisting that those commercial proposals must respect the gorge's natural environment and should comply with the planning regulations designed to protect it.

“Why be afraid of progress......”
KCG is not afraid of progress. A cable car in the wrong place is not progress.

“...... sure matlock bath has plenty of bikers but cheddar has 3/4 biker meets every year and various bike rallys passing through. it is not fair to say thats all the cable car has done for matlock bath as i am sure it is not remotely related to bikers.”

  • KCG is definitely not saying that the Matlock Bath cable car has anything to do with the bikers.  Far from it.  As you say, bikers and cable cars are not remotely related.   The point being made in the FAQ 2012 is as follows.
  • People who say the cable car is desirable progress usually claim it would benefit Cheddar's struggling tourist businesses, but do not produce evidence to support that assumption.  The Matlock Bath cable car is a successful business for the Pugh family that own it, but there is no public evidence available of spin-off benefit to other Matlock Bath tourist businesses.  On this basis, it may be reasonable for Longleat to explore the possibility of profit from a cable car, but it would not make sense for other businesses to expect to profit from their extra footfall.   The actual outcome would depend entirely on the detailed business plans of each of the businesses concerned.
  • What is the direct experience of a person who really does have a tourism business in a place where there is a cable car?  Our webpage FAQ 2012 quotes a Matlock Bath trader because there have been cable cars there for 28 years.   If you read what he says, you will see that bikers are mentioned for the following reasons: traders who cater for the bikers do well several times a year, on the days when the bikers rally, but less well the rest of the year when the bikers aren't there.  On biker rally days, non-biker tourists avoid the place.  So, traders who do well most of the year because they do not cater for bikers, find they loose out on biker rally days when their customers avoid the place; and, unfortunately, those are the dates that would otherwise be the best days of the year. 
  • In this way, the Matlock Bath trader talks at some length about business problems and dilemmas that have not been solved by the cable car there.  He doesn't mention the cable car one way or the other, it seems to be irrelevant to his business profitability.  Why would a cable car in Cheddar be any more likely to work magic for a struggling business that has changed hands over and over again?  Business analysis of this sort is not KCG's remit.  The point being made here is that assumptions without evidence could easily be wrong.  Without any evidence to support it, the assumption that a cable car would help struggling gorge businesses could be a big mistake.   For success, business plans need to be made on the factual evidence, not assertions without evidence.
  • Click on the link  and read carefully to see everything the Matlock Bath trader says about his business.   He does not say anything about the cable car: he says precisely nothing about it.  Even though the cable cars have been there for 28 years, the business problems he continues to experience appear to be very similar to the problems in Cheddar.