Soaring visitor numbers to flagship Leighton Buzzard park gives food for thought over refreshment offer

Parsons Close Recreation Ground, Leighton Buzzard
Parsons Close Recreation Ground, Leighton Buzzard

An operator for a refreshment kiosk at Parson’s Close Recreation Ground is to be sought to satisfy the demands of the growing number of visitors to the flagship Leighton Buzzard park.

While its main purpose is to provide informal open space, Leighton-Linslade Town Council says the park has evolved since it first opened and now boasts play equipment, the splash park, beach, weekly Park Runs, and a bandstand hosting a popular summer programme of concerts.

That has resulted in growing number of visitors, as evidence by footfall counters which were installed at park entrances on September 21 and by May 8, 2018, and have recorded more than 300,000 visitors – the May Day Fayre attracting 52,000 people alone.

The council wants to support the increased footfall with better facilities and the 1950s toilet block was recently remodelled and within the building capacity was created for a self-contained kiosk finished to a basic standard with part tiled walls, a serving hatch and hot/cold water supply.

The hope is to have the kiosk open by spring 2019 on an initial five-year contract with the caterer focusing on fresh meals, snacks and drinks.

A council report states: “It is considered the kiosk represents an opportunity to work in partnership with an operator recognising the investment commitment that the operator would have to make in the first instance.

“At their own risk, the expectation is that the successful operator would be required to invest in making the facility work for them. This would include the purchase of catering equiment as well as external seating and associated paraphernalia. In return, the town council would offer a five-year agreement for example with the potential to extend for a further 12 months if it is found to be working well for both parties.

“Whilst an operation of this nature would help subsidise the running of the park, the main driver is providing those that visit the park with an extended offer that they presently do not receive.”

The council believes the kiosk wouldn’t hurt town centre food busineses, and adds: “It is contended that the park is sufficiently distant from the town centre that the town council could not be criticised for compromising those town businesses by taking trade away from them.

“There is little evidence to demonstrate that visitors to the park would be prepared to walk into town to purchase food and beverages and then return with their purchases.

“Moreover it could be further argued that additional competition would raise standards to the benefit of all. In order for the parish to be attractive to visitors and keep consumer spend local, intitiatives such as this should be encouraged.”