May 22 2013 Latest news:
Reena Kumar, Reporter
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Fears over introducing charging at a popular water park have been raised after visitors were consulted on the idea.
Parents in one of the Bexley’s most deprived wards say they are worried that they could be charged £1 for each of their children to play at the popular Belvedere Splash Park attraction.
The suggestion was first put forward by Bexley Council last year before it set its budget as part of a review of reducing costs.
An internal assessment highlighted the fact that the decision would have an impact on young people whose family may not have a disposable income to pay for a child to use the facilities which are based on the corner of Woolwich Road and Heron Hill.
Last week, visitors to the park were consulted on how much they would be willing to pay for the service.
Mother-of-two Kym Ristow, 36, from Northumberland Heath, said: “It would be very difficult for poor families to pay to use the facility, it’s not something you could go to every day.
“On the other hand, it seems quite sensible as I imagine it’s quite expensive to run.”
Mrs Ristow works at West Street Children’s Centre, in Erith, which was set up to help deprived children in the area.
She added: “If they did charge and my council tax went down as a result that would be great.”
MP for Erith and Thamesmead Teresa Pearce said: “You shouldn’t be charging children to play in the summer.
“It is time for Tory Bexley council to drop its secret plan to charge kids to play and put the interests of families and children before the interests of the rich and privileged.”
Set up in 2007, Splash Park is currently the largest free accessible public wet play park in the UK with water sprinklers, showers, bubble jets and sprays.
Leader of the council, Councillor Teresa O’Neill, said: “We have no plans to charge for the use of the splash park.
“We consulted widely with residents, members of businesses and found £35m in savings, but the idea of charging for the Belvedere Splash Park was dismissed at an early stage.”
However, she added: ”We are consulting with visitors to find out what they think about the park, including their attitudes to charging, in case this is something we need to consider again in the future.”
In November 2007, the council tried to introduce a charge to use the park but the proposal was defeated after public outcry.
Tell us what you think. Would it be fair for the council to charge parents for using the splash park? Would you be willing to pay? Is it right people from outside Bexley can use the park for free? Add your comments below.