Major country park sold for just £1 to new owner
- Credit: Archant
A popular country park which attracts 175,000 visitors per year has been sold to a new owner for just £1.
Forest Heath District Council agreed to take on Brandon Country Park for the nominal fee after its future was put in doubt.
Suffolk County Council’s cabinet had agreed to sell the much-loved beauty spot in December in a bid to save on the £50,000 annual running costs.
That created some uncertainty over the future of the wild landscape of forests, heathlands and nature trails, which are among the most popular tourist destinations in the region.
But councillors have backed the decision to transfer management of the site, which includes a tea room and gift shop, play area, walled garden, lake and mausoleum, to Forest Heath.
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Councillor Andy Drummond, portfolio holder for leisure and culture for Forest Heath Council, said: “I am glad we have been able to work with the county council to secure the future of the country park for our communities.
“Parks are not just important in protecting our local environment and wildlife but vital in improving health and wellbeing.”
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The park also boasts the Brandon Engine House, which was reopened last year after it was restored by Breaking New Ground Landscape Partnership.
It includes a conference room and areas for community groups, organisations and businesses.
There are a range of walking and cycling trails which take in the vast park and the site hosts a Parkrun and a regular programme of guided walks and events throughout the year.
To help the transition, Suffolk County Council will pay £25,000 for a year after ownership is transferred.
County, district and Brandon Town councillor Victor Lukaniuk said: “It is an important venue and it is magnificent down there and long may it continue.
“There is the new engine room up there and the council can utilise that as a building to use for the community.
“It is a little gem.”
Forest Heath said they will produce a 10-year plan to look at further opportunities to “improve the offer” at the park.
A number of conditions were put in place at Forest Heath’s cabinet meeting, including a commitment to the ongoing use of the site as a country park and provision of a range of events for the community.
What do visitors enjoy about Brandon Country Park?
Vicky Pitchford, from Thetford, said she often brings her daughters Olivia, 8, and Lyla, 7, to the park.
“It just something different. It doesn’t cost a lot and the kids love it. They like doing the trails.”
Ali Mathers, 43, and Jaz Killingworth, 23, both from Brandon, say they walk up from their houses with a picnic.
“Every school holidays we come here and the kids love it. The activities are nice and there is always something to do. It is very popular and the pumpkin festival last year was brilliant.”
Kimanya Randall, 32, from Brandon was visiting with her daughters Emily, 2, and Isla, six months.
“It is such a lovely park and we come here all the time. We are lucky to have this place. I have three boys so to have the park so close is nice.
“It would be a shame if something happened to it. It is one of the nice things about Brandon.”