Parking charges recommended for Ashdown Forest despite strong opposition

Plans to start charging for parking at Ashdown Forest look set to go ahead despite the majority of people who responded to the conservator's funding consultation objecting to the proposals.

Ashdown Forest
Ashdown Forest

The results of the consultation - which received over 2,750 responses - will be considered by the Board of Conservators on Monday 31st January.

And it is being asked to vote in favour of introducing the medium tariff band – £2.00 for up to one hour, £2.50 for up to two hours, £4.00 for up to four hours, £6.00 all day and £80 annual pass - despite three quarters of respondents saying these rates were too high.

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According to the consultation report, 54 per cent of people who responded opposed the introduction of parking charges, with 43 per cent objecting 'strongly'.

Of the people who did support parking charges, 20 per cent were strongly in favour - a figure the report describes as 'surprising' adding 'It is an encouraging indication that payments for parking, if introduced, may find a satisfactory level of support amongst Forest users.'

65 per cent of respondents took time to make written comments.

Out of the 3,795 individual comments, 520 of them directly addressed the question of whether payments for parking should be introduced: 38% rejected the proposal, 27 per cent rejected it claiming Ashdown Forest should be free and open to all, while 34 per cent accepted the proposal.

Many respondents expressed concerns that Forest users will avoid paying for parking through a range of behaviours including parking on verges, parking on highways, parking on Forest roads and tracks and parking in local villages.

28 per cent of all comments expressed concern that parking charges would restrict access.Concern was expressed by respondents that low-income households may be restricted from using the Forest by introducing payments for parking. It was suggested that this would create the perception that Ashdown Forest was reserved or designed for the enjoyment of the better off.

Some respondents felt that there was no need to introduce payments for parking as there were numerous alternative ways to raise the funds needed by Ashdown Forest, with many respondents putting forward alternative fundraising ideas.

Three quarters of those who responded felt the proposed parking rates were too high. Only one in five found the medium payment tariff ‘about right’.

63 per cent of respondents stated they were unlikely to purchase an annual pass, at least at the proposed price of £80 to £100.

Despite this the board is being recommended to proceed as follows:

Propose a half day and full day ticket set at the medium tariff level as the basis for the tender process for employing a parking management firm.

Take a final decision on half and full day tariffs based on revenue projections made by the selected management company.

Consider, as part of the tender process and alongside administration costs, availability of shorter passes (e.g. monthly) for those Forest users who may wish to use them.

The meeting takes place at 2pm on Monday 31st January at Uckfield Civic Centre. It is open to the public but space is limited to 250 people. Anyone wishing to ask a question has to submit it in advance by emailing [email protected] by 5pm on Thursday 27th January.

The full results of the public consultation, and the recommendations to be considered by the Board, can be found at: www.ashdownforest.org.