Exmouth councillor warning over public space charges ‘top-loading’ parish councils

PUBLISHED: 12:00 25 January 2018

Open spaces like Manor Gardens could be rented out for private functions. Picture: Simon Horn. Ref exe 9929-17-14SH

Open spaces like Manor Gardens could be rented out for private functions. Picture: Simon Horn. Ref exe 9929-17-14SH

Archant

Councillor Maddie Chapman has warned East Devon District Council about the distribution of charges after it was revealed the authority is looking at privately renting gardens and parks for events.

Renting out public parks like Manor Gardens for private functions like weddings, sports tournaments and big-screen events could generate ‘significant’ sums.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) is looking at ways to generate revenue to help balance its budget, but district councillor Maddie Chapman urged the authority to keep an eye on charges.

The authority is set to actively market its open spaces, assist in arranging events and improve the range of attractions.

Speaking at last week’s joint overview and scrutiny committee meeting, Exmouth’s Cllr Maddie Chapman said the Christmas Cracker had to be cancelled and said EDDC had to ensure town and parish councils are not ‘top loaded’ with charges.

Cllr Jill Elson said when Manor Gardens was closed, the volunteer stewards faced ‘derogatory’ comments about how it should be a public park.

She added: “I think we’re going to have issues in some areas because of the charging scale. Many charities that use the Strand are reconsidering because of the charges.”

EDDC officer John Golding said: “This is something we are looking at very carefully. We’ve done quite a lot of research on what our facilities are doing.

“The big wheel in Exmouth is a good example – many events don’t require closures of our assets. We will look at it very closely before we agree to a strategy approach.

“This is a significant money-generating area and one we have to look at to make sure our budget balances.

“We are looking at what potential business opportunities there are for increasing income from events. It will be part of that business case.

“There’s a potential to generate a significant amount of income.”

EDDC officer Andrew Ennis said Manor Gardens in Exmouth had hosted weddings and a pride event, and the council had also had success hosting open-air cinema screenings that brought in £6,000.

“We can manage this with a minimal impact on the community,” he added.

“We are committed to delivering high quality open spaces and we want to make sure our assets work for us.”

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