Hampshire Now - your County Council magazine

Transforming Hampshire's Country Parks

Wednesday, 04 December 2013

A programme of investment to safeguard some of the finest country parks in the south is under consideration by Hampshire County Council.

If agreed, it would transform the parks over five years to meet the needs of a new generation of visitors and boost the contribution they make to Hampshire's £2.6billion tourism economy.

It's anticipated that the Council's investment would lever further funding from public and private sector partners, alongside bids to the Heritage Lottery Fund, to total more than £13million.

The country parks that would be included are: Lepe, in the New Forest; Royal Victoria, Netley; Queen Elizabeth, East Hampshire; Staunton, Havant; Manor Farm, Bursledon and Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserve.

The County Council recognises the huge value the parks have in providing high quality, safe opportunities for all ages to enjoy the outdoors, whether it's a place to exercise, relax or unwind, or to build on the Olympic legacy.

Council Leader Roy Perry said: "The parks have added to the lives of millions of people over the last 40 years and have been well cared for, attracting over 1.2m visitors a year. But Hampshire's age profile and people's priorities are changing. Visitors now expect even higher quality services with new and different things to do. In these difficult financial times, if we want the parks to thrive for generations to come, we must consider how we can work with our partners to address those demands and ensure good value for customers, while maximising income. We also need to ensure that any investment in our country parks would also result in significant longer term budget savings as they become self-financing."

A number of opportunities have been identified to provide a greater range of all year round facilities and activities that bring more people in to the parks, to stay for longer and to keep coming back. These include improvements to cafés and toilets, new indoor recreation facilities, outdoor play areas, car parking and education venues.

Cllr Perry added: "It's hard to find anywhere that beats Hampshire for the range of wonderful parks in its care. They demonstrate our commitment to protecting Hampshire's cultural heritage and some of the finest countryside in the south while making a positive contribution to Hampshire's growth. With the number of households in south Hampshire set to increase by 50,000 over the next 10-15 years, it's more important than ever that we consider the best way to ensure that these quality green spaces are there for future generations."

The strategy will be considered by the Executive Member for Culture, Recreation and Countryside, Cllr Keith Chapman, at his Decision Day on 4 December 2013. This will be followed by a more detailed report on the proposals to Cllr Perry, as the Executive Member for Policy and Resources, for his Decision Day on 12 December, prior to a decision in the New Year regarding the inclusion of the strategy in the County Council's forthcoming capital programme.

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