Controversial proposals to dramatically change the access and use of Savernake Forest will be discussed on Monday – as it has now emerged that the proposed new fee-paying car park at Postern Hill could be bigger than the two car parks behind Marlborough's Waitrose put together. 

A confidential document prepared by Forestry England for the trustees of the Savernake Estate – but not sent to the Earl of Cardigan, whose family owns the 4,500-acre ancient forest and leases timber management rights to Forestry England – proposes that a car park for up to 350 spaces is built at Postern Hill.

To put that into perspective, the two car parks behind Marlborough’s Waitrose have a total of 332 spaces; 170 at Hilliers Yard and 160 at George Lane.

It is not clear from the document how many of the trees would have to be felled to clear an area large enough to accommodate 350 parking spaces.

Besides the large car park, the document – which Forestry England insists is “an internal discussion document” that “does not constitute a plan” – reveals proposals to also build at Postern Hill: larger toilets “with changing facilities including specialist facilities for those with learning and/or mobility difficulties”, a café, a children’s play area, “a cycle hire, shop and workshop facility” and a variety of walking, running and cycling trails which would be “well surfaced”.

As part of a public consultation over the future of the forest, Kevin Stannard, the forest management director of Forestry England, has written the proposal which means that walkers in the ancient forest would have to stick to specified trails and which floats the idea of closing to vehicles the Grand Avenue, designed by Capability Brown and the longest avenue in the UK – a move which the Earl of Cardigan opposes.

The document is prefaced “to aid the Trustees’ consideration of the vision, we have confidentially set out below some initial ideas around a future approach to recreation management for Savernake”.

It states: “The redevelopment of Postern Hill would be coupled with the closure of the Grand Avenue, and indeed the rest of the Forest for vehicular access by visitors.”

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It adds: “The trail network would be routed to stay out of the quiet areas, nature reserves (which would include the grazing units); and include: 1km all-ability well surfaced trail; 3km and 5km or longer walking trails; and 3km and 5km surfaced running trails.

“If agreed, then our proposal to move forward with closure of the Grand Avenue would be shaped around the following strategy: Initial/immediate review and upgrading of signage at access points emphasising ‘No Public Access’, coupled with public information linked to agreed narrative of what we are doing and why we are doing it; after a period, and once the new car park and facilities are in place installation of some form of automated barriers on the Grand Avenue.”

The Earl said in a statement: “Though inevitably there are a very few visitors who do not treat this ancient forest with proper respect, I am opposed to any mass ban on the innumerable families who use our property as a valuable resource.”