BATTLE lines will be drawn in the fight to keep a popular outdoor activity park open.

Basildon Council and Action Park, off the A127 in Wickford, will go head-tohead in the final stage of a long-running planning dispute.

The council wants to close the attraction, at Bonville Farm, because it has been operating without permission for more than seven years.

Bosses lodged an appeal after they were handed enforcement notices ordering them to close.

More than 2,000 people who visit Action Park, which offers motorsports, shooting and an assault course, have signed a petition urging Basildon Council to keep it open.

The planning inquiry will begin at the Basildon Centre, in St Martin’s Square, today, and is expected to last three days.

A Government inspector will make the final decision in the coming months.

Marie Martin, parkmanager, said: “We are trying to stay positive, but nobody knows what will happen.

We’ve got all our evidence and support ready, and that’s all we can do.

“We’ve been here for quite a long time now, so it would be a real shame if we had to close after all of this.

“We just have to hope the planning inspector will make the right decision.”

The council took action after receiving complaints from neighbours about noisy motocross bikes, rally cars and quad bikes.

There are also concerns about damage to the green belt land, and highways dangers on the A127 from traffic going in and out of the access road to the park.

Action Park organises stag and hen parties, charity fundraising events, and also works with the police to stop motorcyclists using public land.

It also runs an alternative education programme for youngsters who have been excluded from school.