Parks could be money spinners

June 24, 2008 10:26 PM
By Brentwood Gazette reporter in Brentwood Gazette

MONEY-MAKING ventures in Brentwood's country parks will not be curbed by their new joint custodians.

But Brentwood Borough Council - jointly in charge of Thorndon Country Park and South Weald Country Park with Essex County Council - will create a pressure group to represent the concerns of users.

The new joint venture initiative means Brentwood Borough Council now has a major say in how the parks will be operated.

Councillors hope a reduction in much-criticised car parking fees for Brentwood residents could soon follow.

Cllr Karen Chilvers, former lead campaigner in the Save Thorndon Park campaign, wants commercialisation of the parks dismissed.

Her call for a pressure group to moderate the development of the country parks follows the ditched plans for a Go Ape venture in Thorndon Country Park in 2006.

Critics argued that if given the go-ahead the plans for the high ropes adventure course would have paved the way for destructive commercial development in the park. Cllr Chilvers said: "With us entering into the partnership arrangement we need to ensure that the parks are fully funded so we are not tempted into commercialisation at all or not too much.

"The cafe at Thorndon Park is well used and I know there was talk of extending it to sell hot food. That is acceptable but to take the most extreme examples, Starbucks or McDonald's, then that would not be."

But Cllr Brandon Lewis, leader of Brentwood Borough Council, said: "I personally would not be looking to stop them doing commercialisation of the park but actually we need to think what parks can do to offer more services in the future.

"The reality of the modern world is even though the park will be very well funded in the early stages, going forward we are going to have to look at what country parks can do to keep usage."