Media release - issued 10 Jul 2021

Funding agreed for design of visitor centre and café at Southwood Country Park

An exciting new visitor centre and café is on the way at Southwood Country Park after Rushmoor Borough Council agreed to earmark £126,000 for design and development.

The council's Cabinet, meeting on Tuesday, 6 July, agreed the funding, which will include the cost of professional design fees, a planning application and the preparation of a final business case. 

The addition of a visitor centre at Southwood Country Park, a Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG), would be funded by up to £600,000 of developer contributions. Funding will come directly from the council until enough contributions are received by 2024. Developer contributions will also pay for environmental improvements, and ongoing management and maintenance of the park. 

The project will look to use much of the existing buildings at Southwood to minimise the embodied carbon impact and costs. 

Funding for the café will need to be paid for separately, so any expenditure would need to be based on a business case which demonstrates a return on investment via rent. 

Soft market testing had already been undertaken with several café operators to understand the financial viability of any investment. The Cabinet accepted that, in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of a successful occupier, a mix of rent and a percentage of turnover would be considered. 

The creation of Southwood Country Park has already proved really popular with residents across the borough, and based on the experiences of other SANGS, the new facilities would increase the attractiveness of the site and visitor numbers significantly. 

Rushmoor Borough Council's Cabinet member for Major Projects and Property, Councillor Martin Tennant, said: "This is a really important first step for this exciting project which will transform Southwood Country Park. We've been really pleased with the public response and number of visitors we are getting already. A new visitor centre and café will prove even more of a draw. 

"I can't wait for the day when I can call in, enjoy a hot drink and take in the wonderful countryside." 

To find out more about the country park, go to our Southwood Country Park page.

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