FURIOUS nature lovers have slammed the council over plans to introduce parking charges at the country park.
As part of the upcoming Hastings Borough Council (HBC) budget, people will be charged £1 to leave their cars at the Hastings Country Park, but about 400 people have signed a petition demanding HBC reconsiders the move.
Anne Lernihan who helped organise the campaign said people were “absolutely furious” about the scheme.
She said: “It’s an easy target for the council and a way for it to make a quick buck.
“The Government wants people to get fit and healthy and this is somewhere they can do it. We need somewhere to escape the world and the scenery is outstanding.
“There is a real community spirit there as well – if someone who is usually there misses a walk everyone notices and someone will phone them to check everything is alright.
“It’s okay for people on regular incomes to say ‘It’s only £1’ but the councillors need to get out and find out what life is really like on the streets of our town. I wonder how many of them ever got to the country park?”
Mrs Lernihan said if parking charges were introduced, cars would clog up the surrounding streets and questioned how much it would cost to police the new car parks.
“There were no notices up at all,” she added. “And you know what happens with parking charges, it starts off as £1 but how long before it goes up?”
But Cllr Jeremy Birch, leader of HBC, pointed out the charge was much lower than the £2.70 for two hours at Beachy Head, or £4 for two hours at Cuckmere Haven.
“We think it’s a very modest cost,” he said. “It has to be put in the context of the Government’s cuts.
“We are not cutting the £200,000 we give to the country park every year and if we were not getting this extra parking money then we would have to find £20,000 savings somewhere else. The country park budget would be first in line.”
He also dismissed accusations that councillors never used the park, pointing out that his current Facebook profile picture shows him there last week.
He was backed up by the Friends of the Hastings Country Park who said in a statement: “Without those charges the council would have to make major cuts to the country park budget, which would have a serious negative effect on its management and on many aspects of it which large numbers of people cherish.”
Local historian Steve Peak also pointed out that it was unfair for Hastings council taxpayers to bankroll a free park for Rother residents.
The council’s consultation to the plans ends on Monday (February 14) but objectors can still write to:
Budget Consultation, Policy and performance, Second Floor, Aquila House, Breeds Place, Hastings TN34 3UY.