Car park fees blamed as Nowton Park’s visitor numbers tumble in Bury St Edmunds

Parking metre at Nowton Park
Parking metre at Nowton Park
Have your say

A frustrated resident is calling for a formal review of the parking charges at Nowton Park, implemented in April 2012 amid much controversy.

Nigel Gossett, of Hawstead, wrote to St Edmundsbury Borough Council about the issue, highlighting a large drop in the park’s visitor numbers since the charges’ introduction.

The quoted figures, gained through a Freedom of Information request, reveal attendance has dropped by 70 people per day since 2012.

“It just seems completely and utterly wrong,” said Mr Gossett.

“I drive past the park twice a day and it is noticeably quieter than it used to be. Surely you are trying to improve visitor numbers if you are running a country park, not harm them.”

Figures revealed that visitor numbers dropped from 324,000 in 2011-12 to 230,000 in 2012-13, when the charges were introduced.

“In a little country park, when you have 50 to 100 visitors less every day, that number is enormous,” said Mr Gossett.

“The council insists on spending money they do not have on making it more urban, by renovating the car parks and paths.

“They then use that as an excuse to say it is very expensive to run. It is completely muddled thinking.”

With the charges came double yellow lines on streets around the park, an eyesore to residents which some believe further discouraged visitors.

Mr Gossett said: “The double yellow lines looked absolutely obscene. Then they brought in grinders to try and get rid of them, and now it is a complete mess again.

“For three years we have had this cycle of one bad decision on top of another.”

When the charges were introduced, ex-mayor Barbara Hill said: “I firmly believe that the ethos behind the establishment of Nowton Country Park is being destroyed by ‘charging to enjoy’.”

Cllr Guy McGregor, former Suffolk County Council cabinet member for roads and transport, said: “The general issue we have to accept as motorists is that when car parks are provided, there is a cost attached.

“If there is no income coming into that particular car park there is a funding gap to be filled, which means there is less money for other council provisions.”

“With district councils, maintainance comes at a real cost.”

Mr Gossett said he would like to see the parking charges removed and the roads repaired.

“It is a simple thing, but it is something people hold very dear to their hearts,” he said.

“People will find anywhere else to park, not because they object to paying, but because they find it morally indefensible. Nowton Park is the break between the town and the country, it does not need this creeping kind of urbanisation.”