THE leader of Suffolk’s Green and Independent group has called for controversial car parking charges at a popular country park to be axed.
County councillor Mark Ereira-Guyer says the recently introduced tariffs at Nowton Park by St Edmundsbury Borough Council are driving people away.
In an email to John Griffiths, leader of the borough council, he said: “Can St Edmundsbury admit it has made a dreadful error in introducing car parking charges at Nowton Park?
“It brings all councillors into disrepute. Our residents in Bury St Edmunds need easy access to open spaces, fresh air and greenery. John, as leader, you can stop this madness.”
Motorists are now expected to pay £1 for up to two hours and £2 if they wish to stay longer to enjoy the site. During summer months the charges apply until 8pm.
The move is expected to bring in about £25,000 for the council.
Speaking to the Bury Free Press, Cllr Ereira-Guyer added: “It’s demonstrably the case that the council have got it wrong. It’s such an obvious mistake as people are not using the park.
“You can’t do that to the countryside. You can’t commodify everything.
“To pay to use a park is quite an extreme step in trying to get money off people.”
His comments were echoed by Liberal Democrat county councillor Craig Dearden Phillips, who represents the Hardwick division.
He said: “I would attest to the effect on visitor numbers to Nowton Park caused by these charges. I live near the park and walk it two or three times a day. The effects are very noticeable.”
He called for a concession to be introduced for those who use the park for a short period of time.
Cllr Griffiths said all parking charges throughout St Edmundsbury – including Nowton Park – will be reviewed later this summer by the authority’s overview and scrutiny committee.
It follows a 3,078 signature petition presented to the council in February against a 10 per cent increase in car parking charges in the town.
He added: “They will be making recommendations once they’ve conducted the review.”
Asked about the claims of low visitor numbers, he said: “I don’t know that that’s the case. Despite the weather there have been a great number of people parking at Nowton.
“So far there has been good usage but we will be looking into this within the review.”