Suffolk: Country parks at risk from cuts in funding
COUNTRY parks and recreation sites across Suffolk are facing complete funding cuts next spring as the county council seeks to make further savings.
A list of 21 sites under threat have been issued by Suffolk County Council, including Clare Castle Country Park, Knettishall Heath Country Park, Lavenham Walk, Brandon Country Park, Belstead Meadows in Ipswich and Valley Walk from Sudbury to Long Melford.
A spokesman from Suffolk County Council said it would be down to local people and groups to take on the role of running the tourist and recreation areas in their communities from next April.
In a budget paper released last month, the county council stated that it could save �415,000 if it agreed to “divest the running and operation of countryside parks and other countryside sites, and rationalise the management of AONBs” (Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty).
Keith Haisman, vice chairman of Clare Parish Council, said they received a letter on December 10 from Suffolk County Council stating that funding for Clare Castle Country Park would be stopped in 2011.
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He said: “The council were basically saying that it was up to us to take on the running of the park or it would have to close.”
The changes would see parish and town councils, local groups and volunteers taking on the roles, and costs, of maintaining the areas – from grass-cutting, litter clearing, on-site staffing and general upkeep of the parks and recreation areas.
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In the letter the county council said in light of the Government cuts to its budget it had to consider its future role in running country parks and recreation sites.
The letter said: “We know that many of these sites are valued by local communities and that other organisations or community groups may be able to manage the sites more effectively than the county council.”
The spokesman from Suffolk County Council said: “We are encouraging all local groups and organisations who may wish to take on the running of a countryside site to register their interest with us. We have asked that they let us know by 14 January, although expressions of interest will be accepted after this date.”
She said the council would then be holding sessions throughout February for interested parties to talk directly to service managers.
A final decision will be made at full council meeting on February 17. For further information visit www.suffolk.gov.uk/countryside.