A POPULAR outdoor education centre in Monmouthshire looks set to be closed by the county council.

Monmouthshire council’s cabinet has been recommended to close Hilston Park, near Monmouth, due to cost pressures.

The centre has served generations of young people, providing a range of programmes including archery, forest activities, and canoeing on the River Wye.

But a report says the council’s outdoor adventure service is operating at a “significant deficit”, with further uncertainty caused by the impact of coronavirus.

The report recommends declaring the centre surplus to service needs and that money raised from its disposal be invested in Gilwern Outdoor Centre.

Up to eight staff at Hilston Park could be placed at risk of redundancy following the decision.

Hilston Park, along with Gilwern Outdoor Centre, near Abergavenny, and the former Talybont outdoor centre in Powys, were previously run by the Gwent Outdoor Education Service Partnership, which included Monmouthshire, Newport, Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent councils.

But the partnership was dissolved in January 2019, and the Talybont centre was closed, leaving Monmouthshire council to run outdoor education services from the two remaining sites.

Concerns were voiced after the council’s outdoor education service returned an overspend of £116,000 last year.

A council report says residential occupancy levels have fallen over the past two years, and last year the occupancy level at Hilston Park was 39 per cent.

The report says there is “a significant risk”  levels will not recover for some time due to the impact of coronavirus “which means that the service would continue to operate at a significant deficit to the authority”.

“To reduce this financial risk and given the existing market and the uncertainty about the deliverability, the service should operate from one site only,” it says.

Gilwern is the favoured site due to it being larger, more cost effective and offering accessible accommodation, while there are high maintenance costs at Hilston Park because of its listed status, with significant backlog maintenance issues and a lack of disabled access.

“The ambition is to ensure that the offer at Gilwern is maximised and the creation of a sustainable service, which serves the children and young people of Monmouthshire,” the report adds.

Councillor Dimitri Batrouni, leader of the council’s Labour group, said news of the potential closure of Hilston Park is ‘disappointing.’

“I hope the cabinet are truly committed to making sure that it does not have a detrimental impact for children in the county and beyond,” he said.

The council’s cabinet will decide on closing the site at a meeting next Wednesday November 4.