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New parking charges for countryside sites

The introduction of car park charging on five countryside sites

What is changing?

On 30 January, Surrey County Council's (SCC's) Cabinet approved the introduction of car park charging at the five busiest of its countryside sites. Charges will apply from summer 2018 at Chobham Common, Norbury Park, Ockham Common, Whitmoor Common or Rodborough Common.

The money raised from the car park charging will be ring fenced for the countryside and will help to fund the cost of managing the sites owned or leased by SCC. It will also make sure visitors still get all the facilities and well looked after countryside they value and expect.

How much will it cost to park?

There will be a range of charges depending on the length of your stay, so you can choose to stay for as little or as long as you like, up to the end of the day.

The costs in 2018/19 are:

  • £1.30 for up to one hour,
  • £2.60 for one to two hours,
  • £3.90 for two to three hours,
  • £5 for three hours and over, and
  • £6 for horseboxes.

An annual parking pass will also be available for regular visitors and will cost £60.

How does this compare to other places?

The majority of other landowners also have charges to fund the annual maintenance of their sites. These include the National Trust (NT), the Forestry Commission, the Royal Parks and councils.

This table shows the parking charges at other countryside sites:

Length of stay

Box Hill

(National Trust)

Frensham Little Pond

(National Trust)

Alice Holt Forest

(Forestry Commission)

The Look Out

(Bracknell Forest Council)

Queen Elizabeth CP (Hants CC)

Up to 1 hour

£1.50

£1.50

£1.80

£2

£1.80

Up to 2 hours

£1.50

£1.50

£3

£2

£1.80

Up to 3 hours

£4

£4

£4.50

£2

£3.50

Up to 4 hours

£4

£4

£6

£2

£3.50

Up to 5 hours

£4

£4

£8

£4

£3.50

5 hours

£6

£6

£8

£4

£3.50

Annual Pass

Box Hill

NT members free.

No pass available.

Frensham Pond

NT members free.

No pass available.

Alice Holt Forest

£50

The Look Out

£100 or £60 for local residents

Queen Elizabeth CP

£40

Burnham Beeches

£180

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How will I pay?

There are several different methods of payment available, including pay and display by credit or debit card, pay by mobile phone and an annual parking pass. In a few car parks, for operational reasons, it will only be possible to pay by phone or permit, but there will be other car parks nearby where it is possible to pay by card.

Why can't I pay using cash?

We know from evidence elsewhere that cash meters in isolated rural areas are subject to high levels of theft and vandalism. This could result in significant loss of revenue for investment in the countryside.

I visit the site regularly - will an annual pass be available?

Yes, an annual parking pass will be available, which means that you will be able to park as often as you like for a set amount each year. The price is set out above. The pass will be linked to a vehicle.

Will the annual pass enable me to park in any car park at any site?

The annual pass will enable you to park at any of the car parks at the following sites as often as you like: Chobham Common, Norbury Park, Ockham Common, Whitmoor Common and Rodborough Common.

How do I apply for an annual pass?

We are finalising the details for the annual pass arrangements and this will be part of the communication in the run up to the introduction of charging. We will update this website with more information once arrangements are finalised.

I am a member of Surrey Wildlife Trust. Will I still have to pay for car parking?

Yes, as Surrey Wildlife Trust does not own the sites.

Will angling club members need to pay to park?

No. Angling club members at Fishpool Car Park and Britten's Pond Car Park will not need to pay to park. Angling club members will need to display their angling club membership pass on the dash in their car to avoid having to pay car park charges.

I am a Blue Badge Holder. Will I have to pay?

No. Blue Badge holders can park for free if they display a valid blue badge.

I am a volunteer at the site. Will I have to pay?

No. When volunteering, there will be no charge for parking at the sites.

Will the car parking charges apply to motorbike users?

No we will not be charging motorbikes.

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Can I still park my horsebox here?

Yes - in those car parks where there are no height barriers, subject to the tariff shown on site.

Can I still park my minibus here?

Yes - in those car parks where there are no height barriers, subject to the tariff shown on site.

Can coaches park here?

No - the layout of the car parks means that it is very difficult for coaches to turn safely.

Can I park overnight?

No - any cars that are left overnight are vulnerable to theft and vandalism. If you park overnight, you may receive a parking charge notice.

Will the car parking charges be enforced?

Yes - the car parking charges will be enforced. If you have not paid the parking charge or do not display a valid ticket or permit, you may be issued with a parking charge notice requiring an additional payment.

How will you let residents know that parking charging is starting?

A publicity campaign will commence before charging starts in summer 2018. This will explain why we are charging, what those charges will be and when they will commence. There will also be a member of staff on site running up to the introduction of the charges and for a period after introduction to explain the charges.

Who owns the sites and where will the income from car park charging go?

All five sites are owned by SCC. All the money raised from the car parks will be used to fund the management of the county council's countryside sites. The notice boards on site will be used to provide updates on how the money is being spent to protect and improve the countryside so keep please keep checking them.

I've paid my council tax so doesn't that cover the cost of looking after the countryside?

There is now a huge strain on council budgets, and SCC is having to make difficult decisions about funding those services that it is not legally required to provide and prioritise funding on statutory services such as caring for vulnerable residents and maintaining our roads. Your parking charges will go specifically towards managing the countryside in the long term. Our aim is to see the SCC Countryside Estate generate enough money to be self-funding, in order to protect it from further reductions in public funding. Income from car parking and on-site business partners on the SCC Countryside Estate all form part of this plan for the future.

Doesn't the countryside look after itself? Why does it need managing and why does that cost so much?

SCC owns 6,500 acres of countryside, all of which is open for the public to visit. It is important to make sure that residents can get to the countryside, which normally means providing somewhere for them to park. Managing the countryside includes protecting sensitive habitats and species (70% of the land has high conservation value), repairing car park surfacing, making sure that paths and rights of way are kept clear, making dangerous trees safe, removing fly-tipping, and emptying litter and dog bins. It costs £2.1 million a year to do all this. The money raised will be used to ensure the car parks are in good condition, install new signage and improve the experience visitors have when they come to these sites.

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What will happen if people don't want to pay and park for free close by?

We have reviewed all of the car parks where charges are being introduced and have assessed the areas most likely to be affected if people find alternative parking nearby. We will be putting in place a series of measures to prevent that parking causing disruption to other people. We will also monitor the situation and are able to implement other measures quickly if required. The measures proposed include bollards, signage and yellow lines. As far as possible these measures will be sensitive to and in keeping with the natural environment.

Will any car parks be closed when charging is introduced?

We are not planning to close any car parks.

Under what legal power can SCC charge for car parking in the countryside?

The main two laws which allow charging in the countryside are section 93 of the Local Government Act 2003 and section 43 of the Countryside Act 1968.

Under section 93, a charge can be made for a service where the person charged has agreed to its provision. By parking and paying the charges, a visitor to the sites will have agreed to the charge.

How can SCC charge for parking if the income cannot exceed the cost of providing the service?

By law the income from charges should not be greater than the cost of providing the service. While the charges are for parking, in this case the cost is providing the countryside service – not providing car parking. It is not expected that the income will exceed the cost of provision of the countryside service.

Will commons consent be sought and if not why not?

Under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006, you need commons consent if work on common land will restrict access to the common. Surrey County Council's view is that commons consent is not necessary because work to install pay and display equipment at the car parks will support maintenance of the car parks and the sites to an appropriate standard and not impact on access, particularly for those visiting from further afield. Also, works to install the meters and signage will be so short in duration that they will not restrict access, while the proposed signage and bollards are exempt from this law and the meters will take up a very small area once installed.

Some of the sites are of national and international importance for their wildlife. What is being done to ensure they are not damaged by this project?

An assessment is taking place under the Habitats Regulations to consider the likely impacts of introducing charging and set out required mitigation. Natural England has to agree to any proposed mitigation. This process will be completed by the end of March 2018.

Access to the countryside is important for health and wellbeing, Doesn't charging for parking make access more difficult for some people?

We are aware of the concerns but in fact we are only charging for parking at 15 countryside car parks out of over 30 owned by SCC. There are many other free car parks in and around where people live. We are also looking at improving the access on foot, horseback and cycle as well as by public transport where possible. As outlined above we are charging for parking to raise funding to ensure that the countryside is kept protected for the public for the future.

How much will it cost to install the infrastructure for the parking charges and what is the income?

Information on this and the options considered can be found in the Pay and Conserve report to SCC's Cabinet on 30 January 2018. It's expected that the installation will cost £332,000 and the average yearly return for the next 15 years is expected to be £201,000. A summary of the business plan will be published once the details are finalised.

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