Parking charges will be increasing in all five of Northamptonshire County Council’s country parks from 1st April.
The money raised through charging for parking will be ploughed directly back into the service to help pay for the ongoing maintenance of the parks.
The increase was agreed as part of the council’s budget approved in February 2011.
Councillor Andre Gonzalez de Savage, county council cabinet member for customers and communities said: “The financial challenges being faced by the council are well-known and we can no longer afford to subsidise the ongoing maintenance of the parks as we have done up till now.
“We know that our five country parks are some of the county’s greatest assets and by charging more for parking, we are aiming to make the parks self-financing, therefore ensuring that they can continue to be enjoyed by county residents in the future.
“At the same time, we will also be looking at opportunities to invest in the parks to improve their facilities, therefore increasing the numbers of visitors and generating more income. This approach has already proved successful, for example we have invested £175,000 into Irchester and Sywell country parks over the past two years, creating two play areas and this has more than doubled visitor numbers which has in turn doubled the income from car parking as well as vastly improving the park for county residents.
”So far our visitors have been very understanding and supportive of the parks and of the need to pay for their upkeep and recognise that all of the money raised in the parks will go towards their upkeep – and this is why we are saying ‘paying for your parking, pays for your parks.”
From 1st April, parking charges will increase from £2 per day to £2.50 per day for all five country parks for all users, including blue badge holders.
The increase comes following market testing through questionnaires made available to visitors to evaluate options for parking charges. The original proposal was for a charge of £3 per day (increased from £2) - however because 75% of customers said that they would be prepared to pay an increase to £2.50 but not higher, this is the amount being charged. There will be a mid-year review to assess the full charges and any other cost structures.
The council provides five award-winning country parks as well as the Brampton Valley Way linear park, several nature reserves and the pocket parks scheme. Maintaining this service costs around £800,000 a year and until now around £500,000 of this cost has been raised by income from things like parking charges and the council has provided the remaining £300,000 as an operational budget.