Durham Council has confirmed that they want to start charging for parking at a popular country park in order to pay for the upkeep of the tourist attraction. The highways committee is being urged to approve the introduction of parking charges at Hardwick Park which last year had almost 450,000 visitors and is also a very popular venue for charity events.
Currently there is no charge for parking, but the council is proposing to bring in a charge of £2 for up to two hours for cars and minibuses, this will increase to £3 for anyone staying for a longer period and motorhome owners will have to pay £9 to come and visit the park. The council feel budget cuts means management has become less affordable. The income generated from charging people to park would give the park a stronger and more secure future. If the plan is approved by the highways committee, the charges will start on Sunday July 1st.
The park was designed and built by John Burdon in the 1750s and is popular for its lakes and woodland walks. The park has been managed by Durham County Council for nearly four decades and is now a recommended attraction by Visit Britain. Every year thousands of people take out motorhome insurance and travel long distances to spend time in the gorgeous surroundings of Hardwick Park, and they are not happy at having to pay £9. An online petition has been launched against the proposals as visitors want the council to abandon their plan as the charges will discourage visitors which will have a negative effect on the local economy.
Terry Collins, corporate director of neighbourhood services at the county council, said “I have spoken to Friends of Hardwick, Sedgefield Town Council and the neighbouring Hardwick Hall Hotel and they all appreciate why the county council needs to generate income for the park’s management. The council would very much wish to continue providing free parking. However, this income has to be found from somewhere.”