HERE is the first look at a new visitor centre which will be created in Hadleigh Castle Country Park at part of Olympic legacy plans.

A public cycling track, bike hire shop, cafe, larger pay and display car park and new walking and cycling routes will also now be built after Castle Point councillors gave their approval.

It is hoped the investment, made possible by the Olympic mountain biking event, will create jobs and attract visitors.

The plans have divided opinion among residents. While many welcome the opportunities presented in the wake of the mountain bike contest, taking place on August 11 and 12, somefear the nature of the park will be changed for the worse.

Fifty people attended the debate in the small council chamber in Kiln Road, Thundersley, while hundreds more watched via video link.

Some were dismayed when planning officer Steve Rogers told the committee there were no grounds on which the proposals could be refused. The proposals were eventually passed by eight votes to three.

Pam Challis , leader of the council, send the committee had made an important decision. She said: “The eyes of the world are going to be on Hadleigh in a week’s time, looking at our beautiful country park.

“I am relieved, because it would have been embarrassing for the plans to be refused right in the middle of the Olympics.”

Stephen Castle , county councillor responsible for the Olympics in Essex, said: “We are delighted with the decision from the planning committee.

“As we watch the stunning images of the historic landscape at Hadleigh being beamed around the world, Essex residents can be proud not just of hosting the exciting and challenging London 2012 Olympic mountain bike events, but proud of the promise of a legacy which will give a future to the mountain bike track and other users of Hadleigh Country Park, by opening up more land to public access to allow the Salvation Army to support even more vulnerable people in the area.

“The project will also benefit the environment, by enabling historic and natural environment improvement projects.”

Some councillors on the committee felt residents against the plans weren’t being listened to.

Bill Sharp, ward councillor for St James, said consultation had not been good enough, while Dave Blackwell, leader of the Canvey Independent Party, said the plans would ruin the park’s natural beauty.

Both councillors received huge applause. Chairman Bill Dick was criticised by some members of the public for telling them to be quiet or leave.