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Council agrees to charge admission to Hall Place gardens

PUBLISHED: 07:00 30 January 2019

Bexley residents will be charged £2 to enter the gardens at Hall Place. Photo: Bexley Council

Bexley residents will be charged £2 to enter the gardens at Hall Place. Photo: Bexley Council

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Visitors wanting to wander Hall Place's historic gardens will face a £2 charge as Bexley Council looks to recoup an investment in the site.

The council’s cabinet on Monday, January 28 signed off on plans long in the works to impose a fee on visitors to the award-winning gardens – as well as sanctioning a “once-in-a-lifetime” investment of £620k.

Bexley Council took control of the 16th century listed building in 2017, and now plans a new market, woodland-themed playground and relocating the Welling and District Model Engineering Society model railway to the site.

The new charge, councillors were told, would offset costs to run the site – and make the attraction “self-sustainable” for future generations.

The former stately home, built in 1537 and dubbed one of the south-east’s “best kept secrets”, has been used in dozens of films and TV shows – with one blockbuster TV series filming there just last month.

Cabinet member for places Councillor Peter Craske said at last night’s meeting: “As with all sites of this stature, it is very expensive to run and keep in good condition.

“Like other sites it needs to generate income that makes it independent and sustainable for the long term.

“This £620,000 is a major commitment to Hall Place. The new playground will be a landmark attraction.

“We are proposing a modest charge and that income will pay for the investment over time. This is no different to other historical attractions – and a site of this scale needs investment.

“This will be a vast improvement to what is on offer there. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do this.”

The garden charge will be £4 for out-of-borough visitors, £2 for Bexley residents. Children under four won’t face a fee.

Entrance into the house currently costs £10, and will still include visiting the gardens.

The investment was welcomed by the Labour opposition, but Cllr Stef Borella said it was “bad news” taxpayers would face a charge.

Cllr Borella said: “Councils over many years have invested money in public works in the borough but they haven’t then charged residents to enter.

“That’s the disappointing factor – I hear the cabinet member about needing to earn this money back but council tax payers will be wondering what they pay their money for.

“They will have a tax increase and then they will need to pay to go in there.

“Many residents may not know what is coming down the line – I would stress communication 100per cent. It is bad news they are going to be charged.”

Plans signed off in principle include an artisan market with chalets, a visitors’ hub, and a re-jigged shop and gallery.

The proposals for the gallery have caused a stir with Bexley’s art community, who fear their space is going to be lost to a new shop.

A petition backed by more than 700 people has been submitted to the council, which has said it will revise its plans to have greater separation between the new shop and gallery.

Plans signed off will be subject to formal planning applications.

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