Full steam ahead as exciting Hall Place and Gardens plans are discussed at Cabinet
Ambitious improvement proposals for Hall Place and Gardens that could help make the popular local landmark financially sustainable will be discussed by Bexley’s Cabinet at their meeting later this month (28 January).
The proposals include a new children’s playground, a possible new home for the popular Welling and District Model Engineering Society (WDMES) within the gardens, a seasonal artisan marketplace, a new shop, a remodelled visitor centre and improvements to exhibition spaces, including interactive displays and tours.
WDMES would bring with it a fantastic mini-railway that would run every Sunday throughout the summer, offering families the chance to view the gardens while enjoying all the fun of a steam engine ride. The relocation of the mini-railway would be funded by an external organisation.
The new natural, woodland style playground would offer a high quality inclusive experience, designed sensitively to suit the garden’s beautiful and historic surroundings.
The improvements would be funded with £600,000 of investment by the Council. In view of the substantial investment and new visitor attractions, and to ensure that it is sustainable in the long-term, a small garden entrance fee of £4 for adults and £2 for children aged five to 16, with a 50% discount for all Bexley residents is proposed. Annual season tickets would also be available for regular local visitors.
Attractions on the site, such as the Riverside tea room, a new and improved shop, gallery, Glasshouses, Orchards and model gardens, Butterfly Jungles and Jambs Owls would not incur the new garden access charge. Unlike many similar heritage sites in the area, parking will continue to be free.
Hall Place and Gardens is one of the borough’s most popular attractions. Last year’s Lego City exhibition resulted in an impressive 55% increase in visitor numbers and the exciting Dino-Live display saw 12,500 visitors come through the doors. The new plans have been designed to build on the site’s continued popularity.
Cabinet Member for Places, Cllr Peter Craske said: “Hall Place and Gardens is a jewel in Bexley’s heritage crown. We are immensely proud of the site and all we have there – but we know we need to do more.
“Since it transferred back to the Council in 2017, the house and grounds have broadened the range of activities they host. The Dino-live exhibition and Lego Brick City are just two examples of how we have started to ‘think outside the box’ and develop what we have on offer. To continue to grow and develop and compete with other local visitor attractions, we have to move with the times. Introducing a modest entrance fee will make it possible to significantly improve the experience for visitors and attract more visitors from across London and the south-east.”
The proposals were previously discussed by the Council’s Places Overview and Scrutiny Committee in October. If approved by Cabinet Members, the plans will be subject to the usual planning approval.