Extra meeting announced as Wakehurst parking charge row rumbles on

JPMT 250214 Wakehurst Place - introduction of parking charges. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-140503-120650001
JPMT 250214 Wakehurst Place - introduction of parking charges. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-140503-120650001

Kew and the National Trust have announced an evening meeting for members of the public to question their directors over the introduction of parking charges at Wakehurst Place.

The meeting on Monday March 24 between 7pm and 8pm is aimed at addressing criticism that other meetings are all during the day and inaccessible for people who work.

JPMT 250214 Wakehurst Place - introduction of parking charges. Photo by Derek Martin

JPMT 250214 Wakehurst Place - introduction of parking charges. Photo by Derek Martin

The daytime meetings are on Monday 17 March with a 10am session already fully booked but places still free on an afternoon meeting at 1pm; and on Monday 24 March at 10.30am and 1pm.

As well as two dozen comments made on this website when parking charges were first revealed, there have since been more than 200 added to Kew’s website.

The vast majority are from National Trust members who are angry at having to pay to park when they visit Wakehurst, which is the plan proposed by the National Trust and Kew from this spring.

Many say they will be cancelling their National Trust membership or abandoning Wakehurst and going elsewhere, including nearby Nymans and Sheffield Park.

One commentator, on March 2, said: “Having been a member of the NT and a regular visitor to Wakehurst for many years I too am disappointed by these changes. Also that Kew and Wakehurst don’t value the many people who work and will be unable to attend any of the four sessions to discuss the new charges.

“Surely if they want to engage with the full spectrum of their customers / members several evening sessions should be arranged.

“Like many of the other people who have commented, I cannot see that this will add to the overall revenues on the site – we often visit for 3 or 4 hours for which we would need to pay an extra £10; in this case we certainly wouldn’t be staying to use the restaurant to spend another £15 - £20.

“Similarly I usually donate to several of the NT special appeals each year (gift aided to get the tax added) – this will also need to reduce (there is a limit to available funds!) and presumably gift aid won’t apply to the car park charges?

“I expect many people will park out on the road (no restrictions?) making access to and from the site difficult and potentially dangerous. Have the new charges really been fully thought through?”

Another, Jane, says: “We are really disappointed with the Wakehurst parking fees. We have been members of the National Trust for many years. We use Wakehurst all the time. I have 3 growing boys and they all enjoy the walks, big rocks and wildlife they see. Unfortunately I have just renewed my membership. We wont be able to afford to go to Wakehurst if we have to pay £10 for parking and therefore I wont be renewing my membership in 2015.”

Suzanne writes: “I can only reiterate what most others have been saying - we will no longer be visiting Wakehurst if these ridiculous parking charges are introduced. Why such extortionate amounts? An hour isn’t long enough to do anything, so a minimum of £5 to park is too much when we’ve already paid membership fees. Why have these beautiful gardens if you’ve got no visitors left! I expect the restaurant will lose out greatly too.”

Karen says: “I live one mile from Wakehurst and currently have a joint NT membership with my husband. I like to visit a couple of times a week as I walk to exercise. If these parking charges go ahead, we will cancel our NT membership and get Wakehurst’s season ticket instead.”

Kew is hoping that visitors will buy its annual membership for Wakehurst, costing £30 a year (£25 by direct debit) with visits and parking then free.

The gardens, which are managed, funded and run by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, are costing it £1.4m a year with 80 per cent of its 400,000 visitors being NT members who go in free of charge.

The NT contributes nothing towards the running costs with Kew making what it can from its shop, cafe, restaurant and private functions.

The parking charges at £2 for an hour, £5 for two and £10 for longer are anticipated to generate £500,000 a year although at a cost of 140,000 lost visitors.

To attend one of the information meetings contact wakehurst@kew.org or telephone 01444 894067 to register your interest, stating which session you wish to attend.

All sessions will take place in the Dining Room in the Mansion.