MP backs Forest parking fee decision

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Ashdown Forest photo credit: Dave Brooker

PARKING charges at Ashdown Forest have been supported by Nusrat Ghani, as part of a plan to financially support ‘Wealden’s campaign gem’.

Citing the results of a six-week local consultation on forest financing plans – the inspiration for Winnie the Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood – Ms Ghani pointed out that 70% of respondents agreed that more financing solutions were needed to support the future of the forest.

the Time revealed last week how Ashdown Forest, where AA Milne based his stories and the site of the original Pooh-sticks bridge that has been immortalized in his work, will now charge visitors to park and come after the beauty spot saw its funding cut last year by East Sussex County Council.

“It is vital to the future and health of Ashdown Forest that its funding is sustainable,” Ms Ghani said.

She continued: “Although parking fees will not be the only source of funding, they will be essential in improving parking spaces, access routes and waste collection, thus improving the visitor experience.

“Caring for the forest and ensuring that we maintain a healthy, clean and vibrant heathland is of crucial importance.

However, the move was not well received on social media.

Commenters on the ‘Ashdown Forest’ Facebook page said they were “disgusted” by the decision.

“I’ll go somewhere else, there are plenty of other places,” was one of the reactions reported.

“It’s disgusting!!!” says another.

“I’ve lived here most of my life and now I have to pay to walk in my own area? Residents should receive permits if this is the case,” said another.

The rates offered during the consultation are £2 per hour, £2.50 for two hours, £4 for four hours, £6 for the whole day or £80 for an annual pass.

The forest plans to launch a bidding process for a parking system for its 47 parking lots and has suggested parking fees could begin this summer.

Chief executive James Adler said: “As soon as possible we will use the funding provided by visitors to repair the car parks that need it the most.

“We are going to build a rolling program to repair both the car parks and the access roads for walkers and riders.

“We hope the changes will make the forest more accessible. Regular visitors will be able to purchase an annual pass and know that their contribution is preserving the place they enjoy for future generations.

“Ashdown Forest is an absolutely beautiful and unique area loved by many people. It is also the home of Winnie-the-Pooh.

“We explained that the Forest was experiencing financial difficulties even though we welcome more than 1.4 million people each year. Our visitors will now be contributing to the forest and helping to make this wonderful place thrive.

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