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Hampshire country parks to get new attractions like Go Ape
4:00am Friday 6th December 2013 in News
COUNTY chiefs have unveiled multi-million-pound plans to revamp Hampshire’s biggest country parks in a bid to attract more visitors.
The county council could join forces with private companies to develop new attractions such as “Go Ape”-style high rope courses, play trails and mazes.
But Tory recreation and heritage chief Keith Chapman vowed there were no plans to turn country parks into theme parks.
Cllr Chapman said: “We are not planning theme parks or anything like that but we need to invest in our parks to make them more attractive to visitors.”
The ambitious aim is to boost the number of visitors from 1.2m per year to 1.7m while increasing entrance fees and car parking charges.
The parks earmarked for improvements are: Lepe in the New Forest; Royal Victoria, Netley; Queen Elizabeth, East Hampshire; Staunton, Havant, Manor Farm, Bursledon and Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserves.
A council report said: “Each park needs a major financial injection to revitalise what we can offer to become dynamic, year-round, all-weather, destinations with wide public appeal.”
The five-year plan includes bigger cafes, new indoor play barns, improved toilets and a flagship visitor centre at Lepe Country Park.
Other proposals include “revitalising” the chapel at Netley, which the council says is under-used and often closed.
The council wants the parks to stand on their own feet financially by 2016, so the council can shave a further £500,000 of its budget.
The refurbishment plan comes after the recreation service halved running costs over the past three years.
Despite an increase in entrance fees and car parking charges in 2011-12, the number of visitors continues to increase year-on-year.
To help pay for the £13m revamp, the Tory-run council is proposing to sell some of its huge property portfolio, possibly including some in its country parks.
Details of which properties could be sold-off have not been made public but initial estimates suggest it could raise £3m, with more in the pipeline.
But council chiefs have ruled out selling off any land in country parks. Cllr Chapman said the plan was to increase the size of Botley Manor Farm.
The council would also look for grants from public and private bodies plus Lottery funding.
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