Storm erupts in Bedfordshire town over whether to introduce parking charges at Ampthill Park

Petition against the proposal has already attracted nearly 700 signatures

By Clare Turner
Friday, 8th January 2021, 3:39 pm
Updated Friday, 8th January 2021, 3:40 pm

Nearly 700 people have signed an online petition objecting at plans to charge for parking at Ampthill Park.

They claim visiting the sprawling 160 acres of woodland – part of which was landscaped by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown in the 18th century – should be free to everyone whether they live in the Georgian market town or not.

But Ampthill residents - who foot the whole cost of the park’s upkeep through their council tax - point out that 70 per cent of users come from other parts of Bedfordshire.

Ampthill Park (Google)

And they argue it is only fair that everybody should make a contribution towards the running costs.

Former mayor Stephen Addy is on a steering committee set up to look at the feasibility of introducing parking charges in the town from Easter.

He explained: “Of the £700,000 the town council gets from council tax, a third is spent on the park.

“The overriding aim is to improve parking availability in the town, not just to get more money. If nothing happens, it will just continue getting worse.

“Some schemes we have looked at allow you to differentiate charges. So residents could pay 1p based on registering postcodes, people with disabilities could visit free and sports teams could be charged one-off fees."

But angry Steve Gaves claimed that charges would be a 'stealth tax' on poorer people.

He raged: “These punitive fees will deprive many while the affluent can soak it up. This is the people’s park not the council’s. Pricing them out is monstrous. Show some compassion.”

Annette Rambert, from Flitwick, added: “If I had to pay to park, I would definitely be going somewhere else for a walk.”

Some Ampthill residents have backed the idea of charging people from outside the town to park there.

Helen Butler said: “I think it’s fair enough that they charge for parking. They have to pay for the maintenance somehow.

“I live opposite the park and see how many times they have to collect rubbish, keep trees and everything else safe and healthy and empty endless poo bins from all the dogs.”

Charlie Garth, also from Ampthill, said: “If people object to spending a penny to park there, then it’s a poor do.

“Why should only Ampthill residents foot the bill for maintaining the park while everybody else uses it for free?

“If I had my way, I’d charge non-residents an entrance fee to actually enter the park as well as for parking their car. It might help keep some of the riff-raff out of our lovely Georgian market town.”