KCC is asking for residents’ views on the future plans for its country parks by launching a public consultation on its strategy for the next four years.
Seven of Kent’s country parks have just received a prestigious Green Flag Award – the mark of a quality park or green space. However, KCC wants to improve and extend its facilities further for the benefit of Kent residents.
The parks service currently has a total expenditure of £1.6 million a year, with £1.2 million being recouped through various income sources. This means a cost of 21p per year for each Kent resident to support the parks service.
The consultation outlines three strategic aims for the service: provide a network of high quality and biodiverse country parks; increase visitor numbers particularly at off peak times and among under-represented groups; and ensure the service is as financially self-sustaining as possible.
The parks attract 1.65million customer visits a year, enjoying 31 km of accessible routes. Almost 100 schools take advantage of various activities and facilities on an organised basis.
The parks include examples of Kent’s richest natural heritage, with sites of high biodiversity value, sites within the special landscape of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), as well as sites containing scheduled monuments.
Of the nine principal parks, one is a National Nature Reserve (and adjacent to internationally important sites), three contain significant areas of land designated by Natural England as Sites of Special Scientific Interest and three are Local Wildlife Sites. The parks include a selection of some of the highest quality habitats in Kent.
The Country Parks team aims to improve visitors’ understanding of the landscape and biodiversity of the sites and carry out appropriate management to conserve and enhance this further. All principal sites have management plans which consider landscape and biodiversity alongside visitor management, access and the parks’ local communities.
The consultation is open until 11 September and residents are invited to visit www.kent.gov.uk/countryparksstrategy to view the draft strategy and complete the short online survey.by