PLANNERS have given the go ahead for a new visitor centre at Middleton Park in Leeds amid fears it could fall victim to vandals.
The centre, a new bandstand and improved access gates form part of a £2m improvement project backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
Described in a council report as “contemporary in appearance”, the centre will be built of glass, brick and wood and include a cafe, educational facilities and offices for parks staff.
The report to the council’s east plans panel said that as the proposed site of the centre was remote and isolated, the police architectural liaison officer had suggested a fence be built around the centre.
But councillors heard the idea had been rejected following objections from the HLF, which warned part of the £1.46m grant it was providing could be at risk if security fencing formed part of the plan.
The HLF argued it had supported similar schemes in other “challenging environments,” such as Birkenhead Park, and there had been no problems, partly thanks to efforts to ensure the community were actively involved in the project.
While welcoming the Middleton Park scheme, Coun John Procter (Con, Wetherby) said: “I hope the materials proposed are robust because there are issues in the park at night and I have concerns about the style and design of the building.
“It is not what the council proposed but the Heritage Lottery Fund was not prepared to support the council’s ideas.”
Coun Mick Lyons (Lab, Temple Newsam) said: “I would hate to see this building closed in five or six years because of vandalism.”
The report outlined a number of security measures to be used including the use of CCTV, safety glass and the use of timber-clad steel doors at the rear of the centre.
Coun David Congreve (Lab, Beeston), panel chairman, said he welcomed the scheme to improve what was one of the city’s biggest, best known and historic parks.
He said: “The facilities will be appreciated and this is a wonderful opportunity to improve the park.”
Coun Robert Finnigan (Morley Borough Independents, Morley North) said: “This is a good news story for Middleton Park.”
Leeds Civic Trust has written to the council supporting the plan.