The level of new charges for parking across Ashdown Forest has been signed off by East Sussex County Council.
The Board of Conservators consulted on introducing the charges last year and agreed to their implementation in January.
Before they can be introduced, the County Council has to sign off on the proposed tariffs and this was done by Cllr Nick Bennett, Lead Member for Resources and Climate Change at a meeting on Thursday (28th April).
Although they have yet to be finalised pending a parking management contractor being secured, they would be in the following range: £1.50 to £2.00 for up to one hour, £2.50 for up to two hours, £4.00 for up to four hours, £5.00 to £6.00 for an all-day pass (16 hours) – no overnight parking and between £80 to £100 for an annual parking pass.
James Adler, Chief Executive of Ashdown Forest, explained how the world-famous location ‘has long struggled with funding’. The Forest is now ‘rare’ in not charging for parking and they had looked at similar areas to benchmark their proposed rates. He described how many consultation respondents had ‘wholly understood’ the ‘urgent’ need for funding, adding:
It’s not the only solution to the Forest’s problems, but it’s a key part of it.Chief Executive of Ashdown Forest
Charges would be introduced across the Forest’s more than 40 car parks.
Officers made it clear the decision to introduce charges was solely for the Conservators. Under the Ashdown Forest Act 1974, ESCC is required to approve or refuse the level of prices proposed.
Cllr Johanna Howell (Con, Crowborough North and Jarvis Brook) was ‘fully supportive’ of the charges. She said:
It’s not always popular but I would support everything the Chief Executive has said.Cllr Howell
Cllr Roy Galley (Con, Maresfield and Buxted) praised the work of Mr Adler following what he described as ‘three to four years of drift’. Cllr Georgia Taylor (Green, Forest Row and Groombridge) said she understood the pressures and challenges facing Ashdown Forest. She added:
Wouldn’t it be great if car use was reduced across the forest and there were more facilities for people to cycle to the car parks and park their bikes there and cycle safely on the roads in the forest which you currently can’t do.Cllr Taylor
Cllr Taylor also asked a question about concessions.
Mr Adler said the detail of this was still being worked up but the intention was to offer them to people in receipt of Universal Credit or a State Pension. With regard to St John’s Car Park, he stated at the meeting that he was aware of the local concerns and that he was looking at options for this that may include avoiding parking charges at school drop-off and pick-up times.
After the meeting, ESCC confirmed that they have no plans to introduce parking charged in Pooh Bridge Car Park, which is owned by ESCC and is outside the Ashdown Forest boundary.
The two Millbrook car parks on the A22 and the Vachery are similarly owned by ESCC. The two Millbrook car parks are in a poor state of repair but ESCC have said that to resurface them is prohibitively expensive because of their size. They are reviewing their options for these car parks, including the possibility of reducing them in size to reduce maintenance costs, and they may well at that stage introduce car parking charges to fund future maintenance. However, no formal decision has been made.
Click to watch a video of the meeting.
Cllr Georgia Taylor (Green, Forest Row and Groombridge) said she understood the pressures and challenges facing Ashdown Forest. She added:
Wouldn’t it be great if car use was reduced across the forest and there were more facilities for people to cycle to the car parks and park their bikes there and cycle safely on the roads in the forest which you currently can’t do.
As a forest resident can I just say that our lives are already made hell by the number of bikes, cycle training sessions and races that are held in this area. Also has Cllr Georgia Taylor taken into account Kidds Hill? ‘The Wall’ is just about managed by incredibly fit, competitive cyclists – I’d like to see the ‘leisure’ cyclists getting up there in one go without wobbling in front of traffic and spooking horses.
There are main roads crossing the forest – people use those routes to get to other places – the parking charges will not stop/alter the traffic racing across the forest on a daily basis.
What a sad, unpleasant, ignorant, and intolerant comment. But you are right of course, the forest roads should be reserved for you alone.
A possible necessity to raise funds. Not sure if it was really the only option. Hopefully the concessions and detail of payments will be disclosed soon and we will not be paying per vehicle but as an household.