National Trust visitors to Wakehurst Place face parking charges of up to £10 a day under new proposals that could begin on April 1.
The charges, which start at £2 for an hour and £5 for two hours, are a joint initiative by owners the National Trust (NT) and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, which runs and maintains the world famous estate and gardens.
However, the regional tourist attraction get an average of 400,000 visitors a year, 80 per cent of whom are NT members who access the gardens without payment to Kew.
Consequently, the gardens run at a massive lost costing Kew £1.4m a year with the NT giving it only £80,000 per annum. The latter comes not from the NT’s visitor income but from an endowment provided to it by Wakehurst’s last private owner, Sir Henry Price.
But many people are unaware of the NT/Kew arrangement or that Kew’s lease runs until 2063.
Haywards Heath resident Ray Turner and his wife Leslie, who visit the tourist attraction for exercise almost everyday, say the charges will stop them going.
Ray said: “If I go 200 times a year that’s going to cost me another £1,000. Why should National Trust members be victimised? Everybody who I have spoken to about it says the same, they’ll stop going if they bring in parking charges.”
Mr Turner said more money should be received by Kew to help with the running costs.
In a joint statement NT chairman Sir Simon Jenkins and Kew chairman Marcus Agius said Kew’s future at Wakehurst was not in doubt and both organisations had been working together to find a sustainable future for it at Wakehurst.
They said: “Despite being run efficiently and effectively, the net cost to Kew of running Wakehurst Place is such that we have reached a point where greater income is needed if we are to continue our outstanding horticultural standards and the wonderful visitor experience that have made Wakehurst one of the Trust’s most popular properties.
“We have agreed that the best way to raise this much needed income is through the introduction of car parking charges in April 2014. National Trust members will still retain their free entry to Wakehurst Place, but will pay to park.
“Car parking charges will also apply to those visitors who do not buy a day ticket to enter Wakehurst or do not already hold a Wakehurst Season ticket or a Friends of Kew Membership.”
Wakehurst director Andy Jackson will be among high-ranking staff to host question and answer meetings for visitors.
They will be held in the mansion on March 17 and March 24 from 10.30am to 11.30am and 1pm to 2pm.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01444 894067 to register interest, stating which session you will go to.
Comment below on what you think about parking charges being introduced at Wakehurst Place.
And read more on this story in the Mid Sussex Times tomorrow (Thursday)