Monkton Nature Reserve will not be able to reopen until Spring 2021 and has had to make five members of staff redundant.
The 16 acre wildlife oasis off Canterbury Road, Monkton, shut in March due to the pandemic regulations but trustees say it has not been possible to make the site covid secure and the huge loss of income has made the redundancies necessary.
As a not for profit charity the Thanet Countryside Trust, which runs the reserve, is not permitted to fall into debt. Job retention scheme funding meant wages could be paid during furlough and a Small Business grant has covered current overheads but the loss of Summer trade – when most operating profits are made – and uncertainty of when day to day running can return has had a huge impact.
A statement from the Trustees says: “It is with great regret that we are sorry to say that we cannot open to the public soon; we have decided to work towards re-opening in Spring 2021. We will only do so when we have everything in place to keep everyone safe.
“The many indoor and outdoor tasks that need to be done can only be carried out under the most careful ‘Covid-secure’ protocols and following all essential risk assessment. With the amount of detail in the current advice that requires quantifying and putting into action, we cannot, in good conscience, open the reserve without spending quality time assessing the situation, especially when contracting the virus is still possible. We care too much about all our users to risk rushing back, thus contributing to a second wave of this pandemic.
“We’re continuing to closely follow Government guidance; our site and associated facilities are varied and at the time of this communication do not ‘completely fit’ the current business and leisure categories that have been listed for significant easing of the lockdown restrictions.
“It is with a heavy heart that we have to advise that a painful outcome of the compulsory closure of the reserve has been the need to let our directly paid staff go; this was unfortunately necessary due to our financial situation – coming out of winter into a spring lockdown, followed by the complete loss of day-to-day income usually provided by an open reserve during the summer months.
“With no future foreseeable income but with continuing overheads we could not expose the Trust to any risk of financial deficit. We have engaged individually with all the staff concerned and provided redundancy packages. We wish them all the best for their future employment and thank them for their dedication and support.”
Twins Trevor and Les Shonk have volunteered at the reserve for some 25 years.
Les said: “We haven’t got the infrastructure or the people to make the site Covid secure at the moment and there is always a worry of a second wave.
“We want to ensure we come through this stronger and make sure it will be here for the future. There are challenges ahead but there are also opportunities and we will make sure we maintain the reserve the best we can.”
Les said the Trust would ideally like to re-employ the staff when it is able to reopen the nature reserve.
Trevor added: “We as trustees have gone through a very difficult time We have gone through the process where our staff come first, but with no income.
“The trustees have to put the reserve’s future first for future generations. It’s an oasis of nature. As trustees we now do three days a week trying to get the reserve ready. We have on board Dr Clive Nuttman who is overseeing our future and restructuring.
“Thank you to all our members and volunteers and donations of any kind. Books are our biggest form of income, pre loved as we call them. Thanks to every one for doing their bit in these unpredictable times.
“Whatever happens the reserve will always be here.”
The Thanet Countryside Trust trustees are Trevor Shonk (Chairman), Geoff Orton, Les Shonk, Steve Villette and John Way.
The Reserve is in an old chalk quarry, last excavated in 1958. It was rescued from becoming a county council rubbish tip in 1985 on the condition that it became a nature reserve and study centre. The Trust was particularly anxious to protect one of the last natural assets on Thanet because, apart, from the coastal cliffs and seashore there are very few areas of natural habitat left on the island.
It is a haven for wildlife and also has family activities, a picnic area, education programmes and hosts the Monkton Stargazers.
Find out more about the reserve on the newly revamped website (some parts of this are still under construction) at https://monkton-reserve.org/
Photos Thanet Countryside Trust
Making way for ukip houses
What a stupid statement!! You need to grow up or enter the real world.
This had got anything to do with politics ..
Re opening spring 2021
What steps were taken to prevent it from closing and folk loosing their jobs?
The council needs to fund this great reserve …more risk of covid spread at weatherspoons that nature reserve should
Make a fund or petition to keep this nature reserve open f
This is a shame what have the Trustees done to try and prevent this. Cummins put in a lot of money, time and effort from its staff, giving volunteer time to get this Reserve into shape a few years back. A lot of effort from many volunteers over the years also.
It’s a shame I personally have never visited as my children have said in the past you should it’s brilliant my eldest can not wait for next year when it opens up again and she will be able to take her son there yes I can guess why children like it as when younger used to go to many a reserve to see things. And Rebecca what a stupid remark to make not everyone is after building housing. I can see thousands of protesters all around the edge /borders of the reserve if they thought that was possible. Anyway they have enough farm land the council are allowing housing to be built on. I feel sorry for the people who have lost their employment because of closing I hope they will be given the opportunity to work there again should they so wish when opened time arrives.
Why does it take Monkton Nature Reserve so much to open to the public in a Covid-19 secure manner when it is an outdoor venue? It doesn’t make sense. Monkton Trustees – at least be honest with your reasons. And having accepted government funding for staff furlough and the £10,000 grant, it is wrong that you are now closing – half the reason for those funds was to ensure continued employment for staff.
Absolutely agree…to keep such a big OUTDOOR site closed, thereby putting staff on the dole appears perverse. I’m no expert but it just seems to be illogical.