A six-week public consultation about proposed car parking charges on the Ashdown Forest launches today.
The Conservators of Ashdown Forest are considering proposing to introducing the charges from spring/summer 2022.
The forest is experiencing a significant funding shortage made worse by increasing numbers of visitors and the extra pressure on the land during the pandemic.
The funding is vital to repair car parks, and restore access tracks, repair bridges and many other requirements.
CEO of Ashdown Forest James Adler said: “Ashdown Forest is an absolutely stunning and unique area, loved by many people. It is of course also home to Winnie-the-Pooh.
“However, it is no secret that the forest is struggling financially.
“Introducing a charge where there has not been one in the past will, of course, upset some people.
“We take absolutely no pleasure from that. But we need to be clear with people that we have to do it.
“Our annual shortfall is over £80,000 and that is just to stand still.
“With the rate of inflation, the costs of caring for and protecting the forest are going up. In the past the county council made up that deficit. Due to the financial strain that they are under they are no longer able to cover the deficit. We have to look at these car park charges.”
Ashdown Forest has 47 car parks and many are in a rough poor state of repair.
James added: “The revenue raised will go directly to the running costs of the forest. That includes improving the rough condition of the car parks and repairing the 120km of paths.
“We welcome over 1.4 million people to the forest a year. There is inevitable erosion to the site infrastructure which needs maintenance.
“We also run education and wider biodiversity programmes. People contributing to the forest will keep this special place just that, special. But I do want to stress that we will listen to any ideas people may have about implementing this.
“We can’t because of the protected nature of the forest, commercialise the land, and I am sure nobody would want us to do that.
“We want as many people as possible to take part in the consultation. We want to engage more with our local communities.”
Four public meetings are being held as part of the consultation:
Fairwarp – October 25, 7:30pm – Fairwarp Village Hall
Nutley – October 28, 7:30pm – Nutley Village Hall
Forest Row – November 1, 7:30pm – Peter Griffiths Hall
Crowborough – November 3, 7:30pm – Crowborough Community Centre
The consultation runs until December 6, 2021.
This article was shared via the uckfieldnews.com