A POPULAR country park has seen visitor numbers dwindle since parking charges were introduced at the start of the month, according to park users.
On Wednesday, to avoid paying fees, Mark Whiting sat in his car while his wife took their five-year-old son, Luke, to play in the park.
Motorists visiting the park are expected to pay £1 for up to two hours and £2 if they wish to stay longer. During summer months the charges apply until 8pm.
Mr Whiting said: “It’s a lot of money just so children can play for half an hour. He (Luke) normally comes here and meets his friends but they’re all going elsewhere now.”
Carol Minns said: “I walk up here every day with my dog and I’ve never known it so quiet, it’s unbelievable. They built this new café and they want people to support it but they won’t if they have to pay to park.”
One elderly man, who did not want to be named, said: “I’m used to councils providing parks and open spaces free of charge, they’ve done so all my life. Charging for it is breaking with tradition and I think it’s wrong.”
Another user, Verity Kent, said: “It’s a shame because it’s a beautiful place and was always packed. They want to get children out and about instead of sitting at computers but if they’re going to charge, people aren’t going to do it.”
Dwaine Gray, senior park ranger, said it was hard to tell if visitor numbers had been affected, but an employee at the park’s café said there had been ‘a big dip in customers’.
Nigel Pawsey said the park is usually a ‘bustling place’ at around 5.30pm, when he walked his dog, but last week he found it empty and, noticing the charges, left along with three others who arrived behind him.
He said: “Nowton is one of the best parks in Suffolk and I suppose the council wants to cash in and make money from it. Is the rent from the café not sustainable?”
Double yellow lines painted on both sides of Nowton Park Road have also received criticism, with Nicola Barwick saying she was ‘disgusted’ by the sight of them.
Likewise, Paula Harber, from Lawshall, said: “It was such a lovely entrance and exit out of Bury. It just seems a terrible thing to do to a lovely country lane.”
A spokeswoman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council said a season ticket, costing £15 a year, was now available for park visitors. For details call 01284 757088.