CPRE Sussex opposes parking charges in Ashdown Forest
In its response to the consultation on parking charges, CPRE Sussex argues that it is not in the interests of the Conservators of Ashdown Forest to charge the public to park in the Forest.
The Conservators of Ashdown Forest, who care for the Forest on a day-to-day basis, asked for views on the introduction of parking charges in its 47 car parks from spring/summer 2022; how much parking charges might be; and the details of the design and operation of the proposed scheme.
CPRE Sussex opposes the charges for several reasons:
– Parking charges could deter people from visiting Ashdown Forest, conflicting with public policy and public health considerations of widening access and accessibility to the Forest.
– There is no evidence that the scheme is financially viable.
– Displacement of vehicles from car parks to road verges could cause environmental damage and present safety hazards.
– The scheme is not needed because East Sussex County Council is legally required to provide funds to the Conservators.
CPRE Sussex notes that, under the Ashdown Forest Act 1974, the Conservators are required at all times to manage and maintain Ashdown Forest for its natural beauty as (largely) a public amenity. Under the Act, East Sussex County Council is legally obliged to ensure that the Conservators are adequately funded to perform their maintenance obligations. Therefore, if Conservators’ income falls short of what is needed, East Sussex County Council is responsible for meeting the deficit. This is what has happened so far. This is not explained in the consultation.
The consultation also does not explain how the Strategic Access Management and Monitoring levy raised on developers of new homes around the Forest to fund the conservation of protected habitats and rare birds is benefiting the Forest. There is no reference to any discussions with local planning authorities over the use of section 106 agreement funds to supplement the income of the Conservators. CPRE Sussex questions why (if it is the case) are funds from these revenue sources not used for the Forest’s maintenance and upgrading, given that the Forest is an integral part of green infrastructure for surrounding local authorities.
In the absence of robust evidence to the contrary, the scheme does not appear to be financially viable, considering the cost of installing charging machines; the likelihood of vandalism of machines and signs; the cost of wardens; and administration costs.
The Conservators have not even fully researched their ability to impose charges on some of their car parks, which are either owned by someone else or in shared ownership.
CPRE Sussex has set out in why it is not in the interests of the Ashdown Forest Conservators to charge the public to use the parking facilities on the Forest.
Read letter: CPRE Sussex Ashdown Forest parking response 6.12.21
Information on the consultation is at: https://consultation.eastsussex.gov.uk/governance-and-community-services/ashdown-forest-car-parking-charging/ Details of the parking charges, copied from the consultation when it was open, are at: Ashdown Forest parking consultation – details.