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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 February, 2005, 10:18 GMT
Anger over visitor centre closure
Plans to close a visitor centre near Lullingstone Castle in Kent have prompted a protest.

Leaders of Sevenoaks District Council want to shut the Lullingstone Park centre on 31 March to try to cut costs.

The council has said it cannot afford the annual subsidy of 120,000 needed to run the site, which houses a cafe and education centre, near Eynsford.

About 60 people are expected to voice their dismay at the closure in the centre's car park on Wednesday.

'Thousands of visitors'

Members of the council's scrutiny committee met to discuss the plans on Tuesday night.

Councillor Peter Coates, who is responsible for finance, said: "We've gone out to 27 people and asked them to tender and professional leisure operators have come back and found they cannot believe they can run it for any less."

However, supporters of the centre said it receives thousands of visitors each year, and is of great value to other tourist attractions in the area.

'Hidden costs'

Local resident Pauline Penney has presented the council with a petition bearing 700 signatures.

She said 140,000 people visited the centre last year.

"Those people are going to be deeply upset if it should close.

"There are probably a lot of hidden costs there... I would manage it in a different way and save money elsewhere," she said.

She said councillors confirmed the decision to close the centre after Easter but wanted to re-open it in the near future with the help of an outside organisation.


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