ALMOST £19 million has been pumped into the county’s parks to refurbish buildings, improve play equipment, build fresh trails, and construct new catering facilities.

Hampshire County Council hopes this investment will increase visitor numbers to the parks, which will lead to them one day becoming financially self-sufficient in the future.

Lepe Country Park, Manor Farm, Queen Elizabeth Country Park, River Hamble Country Park, Royal Victoria Country Park, Staunton Country Park, and Titchfield Haven Nature Reserve have all received a share of £18.8 million, of which £11.8 million has come from the council’s own coffers.

Other work at the parks include the installation of Automatic Number Plate Recognition, which takes a note of how long cars are parked and charges accordingly.

The council says that this has now seen payments for parking increase to nearly 100% compliance, which civic chiefs say ensures a “fair system for everyone” and “enables funding to go back into maintaining the parks”.

Speaking at the authority’s cabinet meeting, council leader Roy Perry said: “Hampshire’s country parks are enjoyed by visitors and residents all year round. Our approach is to transform people’s experiences during their visits, so they stay longer, visit more often, and enjoy the benefits these beautiful open spaces have to offer.

“The hugely successful Lookout at Lepe and the refurbished chapel at Royal Victoria Country Park are excellent examples of investment for the long term. Both projects have meant many more visitors are now enjoying these important recreation and heritage sites.

“Our investment into country parks means that not only do visitors benefit from high quality visitor attractions, but that the parks can meet their running costs and be less reliant on County Council resources to secure their existence for generations to come.”