FOR a second time this year, Bexley Council has denied it plans to charge for one of the borough’s most popular free summer attractions.

The denial follows speculation Bexley was considering making a charge of £1 to use the splash park in Woolwich Road, Belvedere.

At a council meeting in March, cabinet member for leisure, Councillor Peter Catterall was asked by Belvedere councillor Gill MacDonald about the future of the splash park, which attracts thousands of families from across south east London and north Kent every summer.

He said the park cost the council a substantial amount, but it was difficult to see how it could become self-financing.

Cllr Catterall added: “Charging is probably not a good idea.”

The splash park, the largest free wet play park in the country, was commissioned by the Labour-led council at a cost of £300,000 and opened in 2005.

A previous proposals to charge in 2007 was dropped after a public outcry.

Erith and Thamesmead MP Teresa Pearce said Bexley’s budget cutting 2014 strategy document admits charges could have a negative impact on children from poorer families, but it concluded charging “could produce an income stream to the council, and reduce Bexley’s financial commitment”.

She claimed although the council ruled out introducing the charge this year, it said one could still be brought in at “some point in the future”.

In response council leader, Councillor Teresa O’Neil said: “"We have no plans to charge for the use of the splash park.

“Last year, well before we set our budget, we reviewed all the options for reducing our costs, but the idea of charging for the Belvedere Splash Park was dismissed at an early stage."

She said there were a range of options for trying to meet some of the costs of the splash park and visitors are periodically asked about their attitude to charging “in case this is something we need to consider again in the future".