Specialists fight destruction of 20-year-old site

Petition to save Natural History Museum wildlife garden
Petition to save Natural History Museum wildlife garden

Scientists and other specialists, represented by joint union Prospect, are calling for signatures to save the Natural History Museum’s wildlife garden.

The one-acre garden was started 20 years ago by scientists who wanted to recreate the natural habitats of lowland Britain, including wetland, grassland and ponds. It was designed by Mark Loxton CMLI of The Adams Loxton Partnership  in association with two ecologists from London Wildlife Trust. The garden is now home to more than 3,000 species of plants and animals. It is also used for educational visits.

Current plans to create a new entrance to the museum to cope with ever-growing visitor numbers mean approximately 50% of the existing garden would be covered by a new path and driveway.

Prospect has said that although it welcomes the proposal (by Níall McLaughlin Architects with landscape architect Kim Wilkie) to transform the lawn frontage and recreate historic British habitats, including a Jurassic area, it would like to see the plans modified to use the existing bricked pathways that run around the perimeter of the wildlife site.

Sir Michael Dixon, director of the NHM, responded to the criticisms by saying, ‘The plan currently under consultation introduces museum visitors to the narrative content of the museum by including outdoor exhibits on deep time and sustainable living and well-being in an urban setting. It also suggests changes to the current Wildlife Garden, a man-made environment, which currently has to be closed to the public for six months of the year resulting in only 1–2% of annual visitors being able to enter this area.

‘The entire grounds project will increase biodiversity across the whole site of the museum, and recognises the need to accommodate enormous growth in attendance since free admission was reintroduced in December 2001 – from 1.6m to 5.3m visits.’

Public consultation for the NHM Grounds Transformation Plan closed on 10 October, but proposals can be seen here.

To date, the petition, on change.org, has drawn more than 4,000 signatures.

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