Wipe Out activities and a zip wire - just two of the suggestions for Stevenage's Fairlands Valley Park
PUBLISHED: 08:30 12 February 2019
Proposals for the future of what is perhaps Stevenage's most important asset have been mooted as part of the wider regeneration of the town.
Stevenage Borough Council commissioned an independent review of the current offer at Fairlands Valley Park, which was built in the early 1970s and consists of 120 hectares of parkland.
Leisure consultancy SLC has concluded that: “The park is much-loved by local people and seen as the jewel in the crown of Stevenage. It serves a hugely important purpose, acting as a ‘green lung’ for the town and is perhaps the town’s most important asset.”
The report recognises the park is well maintained and has Green Flag status, has a good provision of car parking, attractive lakes and a plethora of wildlife, but it says the site – operated by Stevenage Leisure Ltd – has significant weaknesses, including that many facilities and services are under used.
SLC says the sailing centre and compound are poorly presented, the cafe building is tired and dated, and the bandstand appears incomplete and abandoned.
There are a lack of ‘pay and play’ services at the sailing centre, SLC says, with staff prefering to provide specialist high level water-based courses, and the centre has an average operating deficit of £131,000 per year.
SLC concludes: “There is an overarching opportunity to explore development of a more exciting, vibrant and financially sustainable offer which redefines Fairlands Valley Park as a destination, while retaining a strong local offer and protecting the open space.”
Future proposals include stepped terraces overlooking water activities, a ‘Wipe Out’ range of water-based activities, a zip wire over the Sailing Lake, glamping pods and a restaurant.
Other suggestions include a more attractive high ropes facility with zip wires, climbing, archery, nature trails, team-building, woodland craft, and bike and segway hire, as well as indoor activities such as Clip and Climb and soft play.
SLC says increasing usage of the South Field needs to be explored and that there is a strong business case for family attractions such as adventure golf.
In the short-term SLC has advised the council to improve the external appearance of the sailing centre and cafe, clear up the compound, improve the sailing centre’s ‘pay and play’ offer and change opening hours to reflect user demand.
With SLL’s contract ending in 2023, SLC has also recommended a review of the best management options for the future delivery of the services.