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Fears park fee hike will put off visitors
PEOPLE wanting to walk their dog or enjoy a Hadleigh beauty spot will be hit by a rise in car parking charges.
Essex County Council has decided to raise the price of parking at Hadleigh Country Park by 15 per cent as it looks to make £215million in savings over the next three years, after cuts to central Government funding.
Visitors will pay £2.30 instead of £2, from April 1.
Concerns have been raised it will put people off visiting the area or lead to cars being parked in nearby roads instead.
Steve Clarke, chairman of the South East Essex Group of The Ramblers’ Association, said the group looked to avoid walking in parks where members would be faced with significant fees.
He said: “We used to use Hadleigh Country Park but haven’t in a while as we try and choose parks that don’t incur a charge. It is often difficult for us to ascertain how long we are going to be so we have to choose car parks with flat fees.
“It is frustrating but savings must come from somewhere and as long as the money recuperated is put back into the car parks when they become damaged I suppose it could be worse.”
County Hall bosses have assured residents the additional income generated from these changes will be re-invested in the parks, offsetting the costs of maintaining them.
The authority added visitors were invited to comment on the proposals in December 2013, and said ‘all comments received were considered as part of the decision making process.’ Simon Hart, Conservative Victoria ward councillor, lives in Daws Heath Road, Hadleigh.
He said the charges were excessive.
He said: ”It concerns me people might be put off coming to use these wonderful parks if prices keep going up. When we discussed car parking prices in Castle Point recently we tried to make it as easy as possible. This is now a minimum of three coins and when people visit they may only stay for a few hours.”
Vehicles with a zero road tax fee (that emit low CO2 emissions) will now be liable for car parking charges in the car parks.
There will be no change to season ticket prices of £65 per year and £40 for every six months.
ECC has seven country parks where car parking charges apply. Car parking will continue to be free at Cressing Temple Barns, in Witham, and Marsh Farm Country Park, in South Woodham Ferrers.
County Councillor John Jowers, Cabinet member for Libraries, Communities and Planning, said: “Increases in car park charges are made after considerable thought and in order to maintain good value. Parks continue to offer a whole host of opportunities for all ages and abilities. With the introduction of new trails and activities in the parks there are even more reasons why the whole family should be exploring our local green spaces.”
WITH prices in the car park rising, there are concerns visitors may avoid parking there at all.
In the past, the Echo has reported how cars have taken to parking on Chapel Lane in a bid to stop paying the parking charge.
Barry Fountain, 76, of Chapel Lane, said he felt sure a price hike would not help the situation but was ‘at his wits end’ with the situation.
He said: “It is driving me mad in all honesty. We have heavy duty lorries and trucks using this road all day long and it is destroying the roads and pavements. We have tried again and again to speak to Essex County Council and ask them to help but it is like banging your head against a brick wall.
“Although the rise isn’t huge it is another deterrant for people not wishing to use the car park anyway.”
Facebook users said County Hall would be better spent using the money elsewhere in the borough.
Joanna Lucas added: “I hope they use the extra money to put the lights back on!!”
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