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Plans to make Nottinghamshire park a ‘destination’ with café and two play areas

Mansfield District Council is expected to approve a planning application in September so Berry Hill Park can be turned into a ‘destination’.

The authority is leading plans to transform the popular park almost four years after it took over control as a corporate trustee.

The park came into the council’s control in October 2019 after several months of uncertainty following landowner CISWO saying it could no longer afford its upkeep.

The coal authority charity said running costs had become too costly in November 2018 and said the park would close unless a new suitor came forward.

Campaigns and marches were held to ensure it did not close and the authority stepped in to take control of the facilities.

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The park was then included in the council’s Towns Fund bid to the Government with millions of pounds sought to make major, district-wide improvements.

This was accepted in 2021 and led to the authority getting £12.3m in total to spend across several projects across Mansfield, Woodhouse and Warsop.

One project includes plans for a ‘Destination Park’ at Berry Hill which would bring new facilities and alter the way it’s used.

A total of £2.994m is allocated from the Towns Fund pot which will finance a new café and catering facility, two new play areas and footpath and access improvements.

The council also wants to look in future at ways to use the park and its existing bandstand, while new biodiversity projects are planned on the 62-acre land.

The longstanding Mansfield Harriers running club has returned to the park and athletics improvements are coming to the large track.

Now the council has confirmed it expects to submit a planning application to its own planning department “imminently” so the work can progress.

This is likely to be debated by the September planning applications committee in time for a contractor for the works to be appointed in December.

Construction is likely to then begin in January next year with a scheduled completion date of December 2024.

Andy Abrahams (Lab), Mansfield’s executive mayor, previously said: “At the heart of the plan for Berry Hill is our heritage, rich history and geology.

“Our natural and local environment will be reflected in the design and future use of the park.

“The aim is to offer an experience that goes above and beyond what an average park would offer. It’s hoped this will draw in more visitors to the district and boost the local economy.”

A delegated decision by Mariam Amos, the council’s strategic director, will approve the next steps for the project on August 7.

However, a report published ahead of the meeting confirms a minor financial issue has been found in the project’s wider budget.

It says the total cost for the scheme was originally budgeted at £3.23m, which includes the £2.994m Towns Fund allocation.

A further £264,884 in council cash has been set aside for the scheme, with the authority saying it initially had “sufficient capital” for the project.

But the report says design fees costing £213,000 must be met from the Towns Fund pot, leaving a shortfall in the budget of about £184,000 overall.

No extra cash can be allocated to the project meaning steps must be taken to either cut costs or find external funding to plug the gap.

In the report, Andy Chambers, the authority’s parks development officer, said: “The shortfall will be addressed through value engineering or via additional external funding.

“Regular project team meetings [will be held] with cost consultants to identify any issues early.

“Regular value engineering exercises have and will continue until final cost certainty … protecting the council and funding partners from inflationary price increases.”

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