Plans to close Tapton Lock Visitor Centre near Chesterfield have been scrapped by Derbyshire County Council.
But proposals to close a smaller centre at Hayfield will go ahead from April 2017 if a suitable tenant cannot be found.
The county council held a public consultation to find out what people thought of the proposals drawn-up to help deal with reductions in the council’s budget due to central government cuts and other pressures.
Tapton Lock Visitors Centre is on the Chesterfield Canal, close to the town centre. There are toilets, a small shop, information centre and refreshments are available and a tramper vehicle is available to hire. The centre costs the county council £20,752 a year to run.
Hayfield Countryside Centre is at the eastern end of the Sett Valley Trail. The centre has a small shop, toilets, information centre and sells refreshments, and a tramper vehicle is available to hire. The centre costs the council £18,314 to run.
More than 550 people and organisations responded to the consultation. 405 responses were about Tapton, 75 about Hayfield and the rest were about both sites.
Most of the respondents (94%) either ‘disagreed’ or ‘strongly disagreed’ with the proposals with 70% saying they visited the sites two to three times a year.
After considering the results of the consultation, Cabinet members decided to keep Tapton Lock Visitor Centre open, subject to annual review, and close the centre at Hayfield if another operator cannot be found because:
• Existing partnership working with the Chesterfield Canal Trust and ongoing restoration of the Chesterfield Canal and the regeneration of Chesterfield Waterside has the potential to attract more visitors and income at Tapton Lock.
• Ending agreements with partner organisations that use Tapton Lock Visitor’s Centre or its staff to run activities such as fishing and boat trips would cost the council money
• Considerable investment would be needed by the county council to increase the potential for Hayfield Visitor Centre to generate income to cover running costs.
• Use of the car park – one of the main benefits for visitors travelling to the Hayfield site – could continue without the visitor centre being open
Derbyshire County Council’s Highways, Transport and Infrastructure Councillor Dean Collins said: “Like councils up and down the country, central Government cuts are giving us no option but to cut some of our front line services.
“We’re working hard to find new ways of generating income but the simple fact is we can’t afford to keep running both of these visitor centres.
“Hayfield would need significant investment before it could start making money and the county council doesn’t have the funding available.”
He added: “We’re doing all we can to find other organisations that would be either interested in running Hayfield Visitor Centre, or using the building in some way. This could involve running similar services to what we offer at the moment, or could be a different type of service. We’d be delighted to hear from any organisation that would be interested. Contact Chris Coombs on 01629 539821 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.”