A CONTROVERSIAL plan to introduce car parking charges at Worcester Woods Country Park in a bid to raise an estimated £140,000 a year has been branded a ‘mean and nasty act of politcal vandalism’.
Coun Richard Udall made the comments as a petition against the plans topped more than 3,500 signatures and called on cash-strapped county council chiefs to consult with visitors before making a decision.
Under the plans revealed last week, the first 15 minutes parking would be free, rising to £1 for one hour, £2 for two hours, £3 for two to four hours and £7 for more than four hours.
Coun Lucy Hodgson is due to make a decision on the introduction of parking charges today (Wednesday).
But ahead of her ruling, Coun Udall called on Conservative chiefs to put the brakes on a decision and asked for the matter to be discussed by the authority’s cabinet.
“The proposals will have a damming impact on the Orchard Cafe and would restrict access to the Worcester Woods to those who can afford it, it is a poor suggestion,” he said.
“I understand the need to raise revenue, I also understand the car park is abused by people visiting the hospital, but to implement such a charge without consultation and without seeking the views of users is cruel and upsetting,” he added.
Coun Udall suggested free parking for the first two hours, which would allow residents to use the cafe and have a walk in the woods without charge and free parking for disabled residents and on Sundays.
“Two hours free parking would stop the abuse and open the car park up to more legitimate users,” he added.
County chiefs should also look into the possibility of farmers markets, dog training events and even camping sites as possible sources of income according to Coun Udall.
“We should not be making it difficult for people in hard times to access the countryside centre, we should be opening it up not closing it down with car parking charges,” he said.
“The proposal is short sighted, badly thought out and without justification.”
In response, Coun Hodgson said: “Most sites with a similar range of facilities around the county currently either charge for entry or charge for car parking.”
“The charges being proposed for Worcester Woods are similar to other visitor attractions and represent typical visitor lengths of stay.
“The Orchard Café tenant is aware of the proposals and we will be working together with her if the decision is made to introduce charges.
If approved, the charges will be introduced next summer.
Visit www.change.org and search for Worcester Woods to sign the petition.