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Hadleigh Country Park to become tourism hot spot
MILLIONS of pounds will be spent transforming Hadleigh County Park into a top tourism hotspot in a bid to attract 400,000 visitors a year.
Essex County Council is setting aside £6.8million over the next three years to turn the Olympic mountain biking venue, off Chapel Lane, Hadleigh, into a top attraction as part of the games legacy.
The new-look park includes creating a base at Sayers Farm including a bike hire shop, cafe, community hall, and commercial work space as well as 18-kilometres of new trails through the country park.
Currently, around 120,000 people visit the country park every year, but council bosses hope the massive investment will help triple the number of people venturing to Hadleigh.
County councillor Stephen Castle, who was the man in charge during the 2012 games, said: “For a long time the park has remained almost like a hidden gem in south Essex, which, until we held the games here, even people locally were not aware of.
“The Olympics really helped open people’s eyes to what an event like that is like, and I think it showed everyone that Hadleigh can handle the numbers and how little disruption it involved.
Cabinet members will meet next Tuesday to make a final decision on the proposals and, if approved, work on the new trails and and the Salvation Army Tea Rooms could start in October and be finished by May 2014. The development at Sayers Farm will start in January 2014.
County Hall has set aside more than £4million for the project and hopes to attract an additional £2million of external funding.
Mr Castle said closures to the country park will be kept to a minimum while the work is carried out. It is hoped the public will be able to use the Olympic course in 2015 once safety adaptations have been made and that local mountain bikers might volunteer to help nurture the next generation of stars.
Castle Point Council has already granted planning permission for the proposals and discussions are underway with the Salvation Army for county hall to lease the land for the next 35 years.
Construction firm Morgan Sindall, who have spearheaded numerous projects including the £38million Basildon Sporting Village and £5million revamp of Waterside Farm Leisure Centre in Canvey, are expected to take up the contract. The venue has already played host to a national youth mountain biking championship, as well as cross-country running, and plans are in the pipeline to hold international competitions at the site.
WILDLIFE lovers are set to benefit from a £882,000 scheme to improve access to eight nature hotspots across south Essex as part of Olympic legacy plans.
The route will join up East Tilbury Marshes, Thurrock Thameside Nature Park, Stanford Warren Nature Reserve, Fobbing Marshes, Wat Tyler Country Park, Bowers Marshes and Canvey Wick before travelling through the Hadleigh Farm and Country Park Olympic venue to Leigh.
History enthusiasts will be able to sample key landmarks along the pathway including the nineteenth-century Tilbury Fort and Coalhouse Fort which formed part of the Thames Estuary sea defences, as well as Hadleigh Castle.
John Meehan, environment manager at Essex County Council, who is helping lead the project, said: “For local people it will really help open their eyes to the fantastic, internationally important marsh and wetlands that are right on their doorstep.
“The new paths and visitor centre will enable them to visit these sites and find out all about them on a regular basis.
The “MaxiGreen” project aims to draw in more visitors to the wildlife havens and encourage more people to get fit and active now the games are over.
Funding is being provided by the European Commission’s Two Seas programme, Essex County Council, and the Veolia Pitsea Marshes Trust.
David Hedges, Essex area manager for the RSPB, who will help manage three of the sites, said: “I think it’s just great that Essex County Council has managed to secure this funding to join the marshes up, get people closer to the river and enjoy the wildlife on offer.