Green light for Look Out parking chargesBy Becky Barnes
September 07, 2012
Controversial plans to introduce car parking charges at The Look Out Discovery Centre and Coral Reef have been given the go-ahead.
Drivers will have to pay to park from Monday, September 17 after Bracknell Forest Council’s executive committee voted in favour of the proposals on Tuesday, despite concerns raised by visitors and Natural England.
Coral Reef Car Park will cost £3 for up to four hours parking and £5 for the whole day, while parking at The Look Out Discovery Centre will cost £2 for up to four hours or £4 for the full day.
But customers who pay to visit the science exhibition at The Look Out Discovery Centre or swim at Coral Reef will have their parking deducted from their entry.
A spokesman for Natural England said: “The Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA) is one of the most important sites for wildlife in the country, providing heathland habitat for three threatened birds – Dartford warbler, nightjar and woodlark.
“Natural England has no objection to the principle of charging for car parking, but we are concerned that this proposal could result in motorists seeking free parking elsewhere around the SPA. This could increase the recreational pressure on important habitat for breeding birds,.”
Visitors have also slammed the charges, claiming they will deter them from going to Swinley Forest.
Commenting on our getbracknell Facebook page, Melody Smith said: “It will change my morning routines quite extensively as I will need to find another place to walk my dog.
“I could not justify £14 a week just to walk somewhere I love – as it is I spend most of my walk picking up other people’s litter and dog poo bags.
“I would like to think that if the council is charging for parking, they will spend that money improving the parking area and installing more dog poo and litter bins.”
Kirsty Harnden added: “It’s a fantastic place to go with the kids without costing money – something that I’m sure lots of parents appreciate in a world where everything seems to cost these days. Introducing fees will definitely put people off and, as Natural England have already highlighted, encourage people to go to other places within the SPA.”
Because the car parks, both in Nine Mile Ride, border a Special Protection Area (SPA), Natural England had to be consulted, by law, as part of the council’s assessment.
Natural England questioned the figures the council collected during its consultation in February and asked it to delay the introduction of parking charges.
Vincent Paliczka, the council’s director of environment, culture and communities, said: “I am convinced there will be no impact on the SPA but we could tweak the arrangements if there were problems.”
The council considered delaying the move to resolve concerns but decided to go ahead as it felt charges would not reduce usage.
Cllr Iain McCracken, executive member for culture, corporate services and public protection, said: “The council has resisted charging for car parking at The Look Out for many years, but the current financial challenges mean we have had to make many difficult decisions and one of these was the introduction of car parking charges.”
In May cyclist Paul Johnston, 42, from Forest Hill, wrote to the council and the Queen, as The Look Out is on Crown Estate land. He received a reply saying it was not a matter in which she would personally intervene.
The council is currently installing cash and card machines and has budgeted £145,000 for this with an anticipated net income of £50,000 per year, meaning the scheme could take just under three years to break even.