Angry residents are raising questions over the cost to taxpayers of staging an ice rink in Horsham Park.
It follows the revelation that Horsham District Council has allowed the ice rink operators - Horsham Outdoor Events - to use the public park site free of charge.
Residents say organisers of other money-making events, such as the fun fair, normally have to pay for the use of the park. One resident - Phillip Lucas - said: “The council has already had to cut trees, so already the Horsham taxpayer has funded this event.”
And Ros Shiel, of Hurst Road, added: “Siting the ice rink in Horsham Park has made that area inaccessible to park users for five months,” and asked: “What compensation can the people of Horsham expect for this commercialisation of formerly free-to-use public space?”
A spokeswoman for the council said: “Horsham Park hosts a number of events throughout the year. The fun fair, for which the council charges a fee, takes place during the peak summer season, occupies a prime piece of Horsham Park and is an established event.
“This year we were keen to encourage Horsham Outdoor Events to relocate their popular ice rink to a currently underused area of the park in order to improve the park’s seasonal offering.
“As we are working to support the local community and help to bring more people into Horsham Town Centre in the run up to Christmas, we took the decision to waive charges to Horsham Outdoor Events as they have incurred additional costs due to the temporary nature of this trial event.
“Going forward however, if the event is considered to be a success and is to be established more permanently in the park, then the council will seek to develop a suitable charging structure.