The Labour-run Vale of Glamorgan Council is aiming to boost income at Penarth’s Cosmeston Lakes Country Park by introducing a range of money-spinning commercial attractions at the quiet and idyllic nature and wildlife reserve.
The council is inviting proposals from a number of private companies and sole traders to run new cash-generating franchise operations at what has been mostly – up until now – a placid place just to walk, to relax and to watch wildlife.
The 250 acre park – created from a former cement works and quarry – is regarded as a premier nature reserve which contains a number of locations officially designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest
WATER BASED ACTIVITIES : Ideas currently being examined will mean a significant expansion in the range of “water-based leisure activities” at Cosmeston’s two lakes, including hireable kayaks and rowing boats . There are already 36 registered “lake users” who have licences to use the lakes – ranging from sailing clubs to sub-aqua clubs and war-canoe competition organisers to sub-aqua teams. [The main lake is 9 metres deep (the equivalent of 30 feet or almost 5 fathoms) the lake bed is strewn with rocks and debris and at least one wrecked car. The water temperature very cold].
AERIAL AND CLIMBING ACTIVITIES: Other ideas on the lists are “high ropes” , Zip-Wire rides (including zip-wire instruction courses) and artificial climbing walls.
MOUNTAIN-BIKE SKILLS AREA : The Vale Labour Council’s well-known penchant for promoting cycling also figures prominently in the plans – although at this stage it’s not known whether there’s cash support coming from cycling “charities“.
Cycling is already permitted in the park – but now it’s proposed to go one stage further and promote off-road cycling or “mountain biking”.
Cllr Lis Burnett (Labour St Augustines) Deputy Leader of the Vale of Glamorgan Council has been quoted as saying that agreements are already in place with a commercial entity for the creation of a dedicated “Mountain-Bike Skills Area”.
A PDN source says that subject to planning permission the Mountain Bike Skills Area will be located in “a confined area” of the parkland and will be “tightly controlled”.
This will enable mountain bikers to practice and hone their specialist riding skills – but these bikers will not be able venture further afield off-road – or off-path- outside the “skills area” .
It’s being emphasised that what’s being proposed is not a “mountain bike trail ” as such – as mountain biking is an activity which is not thought to mix well with pedestrians and horses.
TOURISM BASED EVENTS: Other ideas under consideration for Cosmeston are “tourism based events” including weddings ( the BBC TV Casualty soap has already filmed a fictional tented wedding at Cosmeston).
FIELD SPORTS : “Field sports” [an umbrella description which is usually taken to include hunting, skeet and clay pigeon shooting and competitive angling] – are also being considered as franchise opportunities at Cosmeston. It’s also planned to set up an archery range.
COMMERCIAL “FAYRES” : Cosmeston is also to be promoted as a venue for commercial fairs (or – to use the Vale Council’s preferred spelling – “fayres” ). The council is also looking at what it calls other “innovative activities and retail opportunities“.
ICE CREAM PARLOUR : Although ice cream retailing is being restricted by the Vale on Penarth Pier, the council appears to have no such inhibitions at Cosmeston where a brand-new “dog-friendly” ice cream parlour is to be installed at the main visitor centre.
It’s proposed to install the new “dog friendly” ice cream parlour to the left of the main entrance of the visitor centre, where the reception area used to be.The existing cafe to the right will remain as it is. The Vale Council will have to submit a planning application (to itself) to carry out the work . So far no such application has been made
The council is said to have had discussions with “lots of businesses” in the course of putting together the plans for Cosmeston’s development and firms have made offers for the respective franchises in a “tendering process” . An informed source said “it may or may not happen at the moment”.
There has however been a lukewarm reception for what little of the plans have – as yet – been announced . Plaid Cymru has already registered concerns about the proposed developments and has demanded that the Vale Council comes clean about the full scope of what is actually being proposed . The party has warned the Vale Council not to proceed too quickly with these schemes.
Cllr Lis Burnett says “The council has, of course, taken great care in vetting all submissions to ensure that proposals complement what is already on offer at the country park and in no way disadvantage existing users of the park” .