HEREFORDSHIRE Council is in talks with a “community group” looking to take over two of the county’s top natural attractions.
Queenswood Country Park and Bodenham Lake nature reserve could both be transferred out of council control.
The council confirmed this morning (Friday) that it had been approached by an as yet un-named community group over assuming responsibility for both sites.
In a statement, the council said: “As part of our community asset transfer process, we have asked the group to complete a business case which outlines how it would operate the locations and how this would benefit the public, along with providing various assurances around competency and financial viability.”
The council will consider the proposed transfer once a copy of the business case has been received.
In June last year, the council faced calls for “clarity” over its proposals for the future of Queenswood Country Park.
Opposition councillors wanted a guarantee from the local authority that the site on Dinmore Hill called one of county’s “most precious public assets” would not be sold off.
Then, the council said no decisions had been made on the overall future for its parks and countryside service ahead of a related savings plan.
The 170- acre Queenswood is managed by the council and the Queenswood Coronation Fund.
Forty-seven acres are made up of more than 1,200 rare and exotic trees from all over the world. Another 123 acres is spread over semi-natural woodland designated as a site of special scientific interest and a local nature reserve.
Queenswood survived a privatisation scare in 1988 when the then Hereford and Worcester County Council was forced into a denial of any plan to privatise its country parks after reports suggested it could happen.
Originally part of the Hampton Court estate, Queenswood has a history of public access dating from 1935 when it was bought by public subscription through an appeal organised by the then Council for the Preservation of Rural England.
It was handed over to the then county council “to look after for the people all the time” and prevent development that planning law at the time did not protect it from.
Bodenham Lake Nature Reserve is 44.5 hectares (110 acres) of varied habitat including riverside meadows, veteran orchard, newly planted orchard, a 'gravel' area and wet woodland. The lake itself is the largest area of open water in the county.