Published: 05:00, 25 May 2022
| Updated: 14:52, 25 May 2022
Furious volunteers who maintain an award-winning Maidstone park say they could be forced to disband following the demolition of their base to make way for a new cafe.
The borough council is in the process of building a new £2.5m snack bar for Mote Park.
But as part of the construction process it has told the 20 or so volunteers who freely give their time each week to tend to the 450-acre green space, as part of the Mote Park Fellowship, that it will have to knock down their hut.
They have been given until Wednesday next week to clear out.
The builders, BBS, want to use the spot to store spoil dug from the new cafe's foundations.
Brian Smith-Lowther is a committee member for the Mote Park Fellowship and has been volunteering in the park for the past 12 years.
He is one of a dedicated group of men and women who meet every Wednesday to work in the grounds, doing jobs such as lopping the branches off fallen trees, spreading bark, or planting up the waterfall.
He said: "We do the extra jobs that the council's parks staff don't have time for."
The group has collected an extensive range of tools over the years - from wheel-barrows and pruners to saws, hoes, rakes - and also keep their fridge, freezer and microwave in the hut so they can stop for refreshments.
They also use it for shelter in bad weather
Mr Smith-Lowther said: "The park manager has said we can have a 7ft by 5ft room within the new cafe complex when it is completed, but firstly that will not be big enough even just for the wheelbarrows, and secondly, where do we go in the meantime?
"This is no way to treat the volunteers."
'If the volunteers' group is forced to disband, Mote Park will soon lose its Green Flag status...'
When the plans for the cafe were initially developed, the volunteers were told their hut, an old portable cabin, would be relocated behind Maidstone Leisure Centre.
But that idea has been dropped with Maidstone council saying the hut is in such a state of disrepair that it could not be moved.
Mr Smith-Lowther warned: "If the volunteers' group is forced to disband, Mote Park will soon lose its Green Flag status."
The park has consistently achieved the award, which recognises the best green spaces in the country.
It was voted third in the People's Choice for their Favourite Green Flag Park in 2015.
A spokeswoman for Maidstone council said: "The cabin currently used by the Mote Park Volunteer Group is due to be demolished in the near future.
"However, the building was only a temporary solution which the group were aware of.
"We will be providing them with new facilities and storage space within the Mote Park Café and Visitor Centre which is currently under construction."
She said: "They will also have access to the restrooms in the visitor centre, along with the use of a training room when required.
"In addition, the volunteers will be provided with a second storage area for their larger equipment and machinery at the MBC Estate Services building which is also located in the park."
However that facility is also not immediately available.
The council said in the interim they could store equipment within the brick-built toilet back adjacent to the hut, that is also due for demolition.
The spokeswoman said: "The council Mote Park Ranger works well with the volunteer group, supporting and assisting them in transporting tools, and will continue to do so as they are a great asset to the park."