Fears of 'long-term damage' to iconic gardens if Cheltenham Festivals continue there
MONTPELLIER Gardens has been left looking like a "mud bath" after it was used for Cheltenham's Literature Festival.
The current state of Montpellier Gardens and the gardens in Imperial Square has outraged groups who are calling for a re-think.
They are urging Cheltenham Borough Councillors to consider the "long-term damage" before deciding on the future of the festivals in the gardens in April.
The tourist spots have been left churned up and damaged after they hosted the majority of this year's festival events for the first time on a trial basis. A committee was set up to monitor their effect on the environment and nearby residents.
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It will be up to them to decide whether to permanently use the gardens.
The Friends of Montpellier Bandstand and Gardens and the Friends of Imperial Square and Gardens met councillors to voice their concerns.
David Stennett, chairman of the Friends of Imperial Square and Gardens, said Montpellier Gardens had been left looking like a "mud bath".
He said: "Every year, both sets of gardens will have to be renovated in some way after the festivals and there are issues of sustainability. There are 21 days of festivals, but there are 75 days of setting up and taking down for the festivals.
"If restoration work is added on to that, it means the gardens are out of commission to the public for a long time."
The festivals bring thousands of pounds of the economy every year, with the latest literature festival hailed as the best yet.
Dr Patricia Bracegirdle, chairman of the Friends of Montpellier Bandstand and Gardens, said the group was not against the festivals.
She added: "We want the festivals to continue as they're obviously a great thing for Cheltenham as a town.
"But I am worried that if the level of use of the gardens during this trial continues, there will be long-term damage."
Cheltenham Festivals' head of production Tim Hawkins said both gardens would be re-turfed next week.
He said: "We have a contract with the council to re-turf the gardens to the state they were in before the festival.
"There is no evidence or proof that there will be long term damage to the gardens."
OPINION AND LETTERS, P8