Country park users are claiming visitors are turning their backs on one of West Suffolk’s best loved nature areas because the council have decided to bring in parking fees for the first time. St Edmundsbury Borough Council started charging for parking at both Nowton Park and West Stow from earlier this month.
A stay of up to two hours will cost £1 and a stay of longer than two hours will cost £2. The charges were brought in as part of this year’s budget but research has revealed that visitors intend to stay away from the park. The parking fees will come as a blow to the many motorhome owners who visit the area. Many of them took time out to answer a local questionnaire and the majority said they felt the charges were unfair. George James, a campervan owner from Norfolk said: “We love it here but why charge us. We already pay out a fortune in motorhome insurance, fuel costs and road tax. We spend money in local shops and cafés when we visit, but we won’t visit again, we’ll go elsewhere.”
Local residents are also angry at the change in the rules and many have noticed that the Nowton Park car park is largely empty when they visited during the usually busy school holiday period. One of them, who visited the park, said “We went to the park only to drive off again, as when getting ready to take the dogs out we don’t automatically think to grab some change. There were only three cars at the park, whereas there are usually quite a lot. I think there will now be a lack of visitors to the park. Instead we drove one minute down the road to the heath next to the hospital where there were many cars and it’s free to park.”
St Edmundsbury Council feel it is far too early to comment on the impact of the new tariffs and the recent poor weather has probably played a role in the number of people visiting the parks. It is understood council chiefs will keep monthly records on the number of vehicles coming in and out of the parks and because of this it will be some time before any comparisons can be made.