FITNESS clubs and professional dog walkers could be charged as much as £400 a year to use country parks across Essex.

Essex County Council is looking to introduce a number of new fees at parks it runs in a bid to become “self-sustaining” and “more efficient”.

It is expected the price hikes will help generate £40,000 for the council.

Under the move professional dog walkers could be charged a upfront annual fee of £350.

Classes such as bootcamps, walking or running groups may be charged an annual fee of £350.

Those which were held infrequently or in school holidays would be charged for the weeks they operate.

It is proposed the hire of Cressing Temple for events will rise from £2,000 for one day to £3,000 while other venues could now charge £2,500 for use of a field for one day compared to the current fee of £1,800.

Charity events will still get a concession but the fees may be increased by nine per cent.

Horsebox visitors could also be expected to pay £15 per visit under the new rules.

The changes are expected to be introduced in June and a spokesman said the final fees were still to be determined.

Groups will be contacted before any changes are introduced.

Councillor Simon Walsh said: “We have recently undertaken a review of all our fees and charges across Essex Country Parks to ensure they are benchmarked appropriately.

“Following this review, a decision has been made to bring our charges up to date and in line with inflation.

“Many charges had not been increased for some time, for example car park season tickets, had not increased over the last 12 years.

“Every penny spent with Essex country parks is reinvested in order to ensure they are maintained for residents to enjoy.

“Over the last few years we’ve invested more than £1million in the Essex country parks for the benefit of our visitors, with improvements to footpaths and accessibility, facilities, signage and play equipment and there are plans for further investment to come.

“We need to make sure we continue to invest in our country parks for residents now and for future generations to enjoy.”