MONEY-MAKING initiatives to maintain Monmouthshire's outdoor services must improve children's education, councillors have said.

Monmouthshire council is planning to end a partnership with Newport, Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent councils in delivering outdoor education from March 31, 2019.

It comes after Newport and Torfaen councils withdrew funding for the service while Blaenau Gwent has also reduced the amount of cash it contributes.

The Gwent Outdoor Education Service provides outdoor education from its centres at Hilston Park near Monmouth, and at sites in Gilwern and Talybont in Powys.

But Monmouthshire council is now planning to provide the service from just two of the sites - Hilston Park and Gilwern - with the Talybont site earmarked for closure from February 1.

As part of the changes, the council has also drawn up a range of income generating ideas to ensure the service is 'sustainable' and continues to provide a "quality service."

These include the creating of a camp site with camping pods at Hilston, providing Duke Of Edinburgh expeditions, redevelopment of Hilston Lodge and increasing traded activities with schools and the public.

At a meeting of Monmouthshire council's economy and development select committee yesterday, Cllr Jane Pratt said it was vital outdoor education is protected and that the potential for international schools and companies to use the sites could be "extremely lucrative."

"If we have to look at other markets so that the child from a deprived background who never goes on holiday, whose parents are visiting the foodbank can have this type of experience then let's do that," she said.

Cllr Jez Becker said he wanted guarantees that the changes were for the benefit of children using the service.

"I do not want us to get carried away in this flush of economic thirst," he said.

"I would like to see it written into the DNA of this that the point of making these sites successful is to provide a better and more subsidised service of outdoor education to the young people in our county and area."

And Cllr David Dovey said the council needed to make sure the new model "does not pose any risk to the education of children."

"There's no point in doing that if you are putting your main task, which is your children, in jeopardy," he added.

The committee supported proposals to dissolve the Gwent Outdoor Education Service partnership from March 31 and close the Talybont site, which will lead to the loss of two jobs – the site co-ordinator and cook – and redundancy costs amounting to £30,000.

The Talybont site would be returned to owners Newport council under the plans.