Going for a hike or walking your dog could soon cost you more than just a few calories, as Surrey County Council prepares to introduce parking charges across its hugely popular natural spots.
The controversial proposal is set to introduce the charges in parks across Surrey’s council-owned countryside spots, like Chobham Common, Whitmoor Common, Norbury Park, Ockham Common, and Rodborough Common.
The aim is to make the 6,500 acres of land self-sufficient ahead of a funding cut set for 2021. The Council currently contributes £575,000 a year to help manage and maintain the estate, which is run by Surrey Wildlife Trust.
A report prepared by officers recommends the cabinet impose charges at five of the estate’s 30 car parks when it next meets, on December 14.
It states: “Based on the financial assessment and the outcome of the pay and conserve consultation the preferred option would be to introduce charging in the five busiest sites with a card only, pay and display machine and the option to pay by mobile phone or to purchase an annual season ticket as set out in option.”
More than 1,200 people responded to the 12-day consultation and many raised concerns about charging volunteers and people on low incomes, while some said it could deter visitors.
The council said all income would be “ring fenced for the countryside”, it would look at providing free parking for volunteers and that the fees could “encourage positive changes such as car sharing”.
Officers insist parking charges are necessary and that if no additional revenue is generated, the estate could deteriorate.
A section of their report reads: “There will be less funding available for other work on sites such as the maintenance of access facilities, which could lead to a reduction in the public’s ability to access the countryside.”
Surrey Wildlife Trust, which runs the estate, recently cut six members of staff to find “significant cost savings”.
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