Proposed parking charges at a Sutton Coldfield beauty spot could be scrapped if plans to explore new commercial opportunities generate a big enough income.

Birmingham City Council earlier this year proposed charging car users to enter Sutton Park, seven-days-a-week, as opposed to its present policy of charging on Sundays only during the warmer months, as it bids to make up a shortfall in funding and to invest in the park.

The authority has now, however, invited tenders from companies who may wish to offer leisure and retail opportunities, generating money for a ground rent that could be reinvested in Europe’s largest urban park.

Parking charges were introduced in Canon Hill Park this month – with Sutton Park expected to follow suit, however, a new tender process has been started by the authority inviting bids for the ‘Provision of Commercial Opportunities for Sutton Park’. Sutton councillors on both sides believe this should, if successful, stop park users being charged to enter the much-loved site.

The council’s tender document states: “Birmingham is renowned for being a green city, with numerous parks, areas of open space & open water; where people can be active and enjoy the great outdoors.

“The city council wishes to engage with experienced organisations or individuals with the relevant and appropriate experience to submit business plans and ideas to generate income from Sutton Park.”

Any agreement would start in 2018 and would be for a period of four years initially.

There are three categories which companies can bid for. Firstly, leisure activities with examples given including donkey, pony or llama rides, land trains, hire of Segway riders, water zorbing, high rope activities or similar.

Secondly, sporting activities which could include fitness training – boot camps, boating, ice skating or sports coaching.

And thirdly, retail opportunities, such as car boot sales or weekend markets, temporary mobile catering opportunities such as ice-cream vans or hot snack vendors, commercial growing, harvesting or selling, with Christmas trees, holly and mistletoe given as examples, plus management of fishing venues.

Sutton Vesey councillor Rob Pocock (Lab.) said if these plans come to fruition there would be ‘no need to extend car parking charges for Sutton Park’.

The issue was raised at the city council’s Corporate Governance Scrutiny Committee on October 4, when the new commercial strategy was revealed.

Cllr Pocock said the council was now looking to ‘sweat its assets’, draw people to the park and generate money rather than a harsh all-encompassing parking charge which may deter visitors. He said: “It’s obvious that money needs to be raised locally, to plug the gap left by the cuts in central government grants.

The hidden secrets of Birmingham that will surprise you

“It makes more sense to do as The National Trust do up and down the country, and tap into the commercial potential of the site.

“Visitors willingly pay for leisure, merchandising and recreational facilities if they want to, and money is raised that way. They’ll get more money out of commercialisation than car park charges.

“They could have a high rope course or a treetop walkway like at Kew Gardens. Perfectly in harmony with the natural environment.

“Two million people visit Sutton Park a year. If they all paid just 10p in a collection pot they would raise more money than charges.

“Sutton Park should be thought of in three parts. Bits of it you can’t touch. Other areas where you could do things in keeping with what’s there. And the commercial gateways like Banners Gate, Boldmere Gate and Town Gate where more could be offered.

“These plans are far better than just slapping a blanket car park charge on everyone. What’s more, if we want to attract visitors to come and spend money at these new commercial activities, what’s the sense in bringing in parking charges that would actually drive people away and undermine the whole idea?!”

Meanwhile, rival Conservative city and town councillor Ewan Mackey (Sutton Trinity) agreed with his Labour counterpart and called on the city council to stop their parking charges plan, while commercial ventures are looked at.

Cllr Mackey said: “Rather than pay, they could put more services around the park and this will generate more rent and attract more people!

“You don’t just hit people with charges as this will lead to them parking on verges or roads and create more problems.

“It has to be done carefully as Sutton Park is a site of special scientific interest and we don’t want a lot of people going to certain areas of the park. I’m behind the council trying to commercialise the park but while doing so they need to drop this talk of car parking charges.”

Bidders can submit tenders for more than one area and the closing date for submissions is 12noon on October 30.