A COUNCILLOR says the new visitor centre at Sherwood Forest needs to be a ‘top drawer’ attraction which will last for the next 40 years.
Nottinghamshire County Council wants to develop a 21st Century replacement for the outdated building and, on Wednesday, cabinet members approved plans to look for a business partner so a replacement can be in place by 2014.
The authority will continue to run and manage the forest but will seek a public or private sector partner to develop a ‘visitor experience for the 21st century’ on land adjacent to the forest.
Speaking at a meeting of Edwinstowe Parish Council, Coun John Peck said that he is not against private sector investment but the centre needs to have a ‘wow factor’ to draw in tourists worldwide.
“The current visitor centre is tired and past its sell by date, but it will be a huge mistake if we penny pinch and the new centre does not last for 40 years,” he said.
“I am pleased at last that something is happening and we all understand the current financial restraints of the local authority - but it has to be something special as tourism helps boost our economy.”
Coun Peck, who is Newark & Sherwood district councillor for Edwinstowe, also addressed the issue in a letter to Chad this week.
“At the moment, many tourists must leave slightly disappointed and if the county council wants to show real vision, it should see the visitor centre as the centrepiece of a Sherwood Forest Regional Park,” he wrote.
“I wish them luck in the present economic climate, I am not against private sector involvement, but the county council must know any private company will want to make a profit. Wherever the money comes from, the county council needs to show vision and ambition.
“This is one chance to create something which will still be a top drawer attraction for the next 40 years.
“They’ve already cut the estimated budget for the project to £5m. It sounds a lot, but sadly it will only be enough to build another fairly insignificant, low key attraction.”
Dr Patrick Candler, Nottinghamshire County Council’s service director for Cultural Services, attended last Tuesday’s council meeting.
“We need to secure partner agencies and the parish council is very important,” he said.
“We see the site as a honey pot, not just for local people, but for people from all across the world.”
“We accept that tourism is a key economic factor which we need to support - it has always been a commitment of the authority to do something, it is just a case of when.”