Peak District parking charges at previously free sites is a 'tax on visitors'

New charges at previously free Peak District car parks have been condemned as a ‘tax on visitors’ by some, but chiefs argue they are necessary to keep the park going.

Fees at the 13 car parks were agreed by the Peak District National Park Authority (PDNPA), along with increased tariffs at existing pay and display car parks, which in total will raise approximately £220k a year additional income.

Speaking in a meeting of the National Park Authority, Councillor Andrew Gregory commented: “There are people I’ve spoken with who see the car parking charges as a tax on them visiting.

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“We probably should do as much as we can to make sure that when people are visiting the car parks they know money is being used to support the car parks.

The Peak District National ParkThe Peak District National Park
The Peak District National Park

“Unfortunately there is a level of cynicism about any increases.”

The applicable car parks are as follows – Friden, Minninglow, Narlows Lane (Thorpe), Thorpe Station, Dennis Knoll, Hook’s Carr, Upper Burbage Bridge, Barber Booth (Edale), Alstonefield, Milldale, Derwent Overlook, Blore Pastures (Ilam), Moor Lane (Youlgrave).

Acting head of asset management Matt Freestone said there had been 165 responses to a public consultation about the proposals, highlighting concerns about increased vehicles parking on grass verges to avoid payment and restricting visitors’ access to the countryside at a time when their finances are strained.

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He said the PDNPA would monitor the situation and try to educate drivers about responsible parking, but added: “We can’t alter irresponsible behaviour of people who chose to park on verges.”

Mr Freestone said the charges were actually enabling access to the Peak District, as they helped pay for its upkeep.

Councillor David Chapman described the debate as ‘deja vu’, commenting: “If I had a tenner for every meeting I’ve sat through that’s had exactly the same complaints, exactly the same comments, I’d be fairly rich.

“Our village couldn’t take any more cars, the verges are full anyway, this won’t make any difference.

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“And if anybody thinks that raising charges will prevent people using car parks I suggest you try and park in Bakewell any afternoon.”

But Councillor David Taylor raised safety concerns over cyclists and pedestrians having to go into the road to get cars parked on verges.

Furthermore he criticised the authority’s decision to phase out old cash pay stations with new card and phone machines.

“We’re saying we aren’t going to use cash, which I find offensive, because I’m a cash person,” Coun Taylor said.

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“It does discriminate against the elderly who don’t tend to use phones.”

Mr Freestone said PDNPA’s communication strategy had proven effective at dissuading drivers from parking on grass verges in areas such as North Lees.

Professor Janet Haddock-Fraser pointed out there were approximately 26million visitor journeys made to the national park a year, and the negative responses in the consultation were minimal in comparison to the numbers coming in.