VOLUNTEERS who have spent the past six years looking after a council car park are once again gearing up to fight the introduction of parking charges.
After Warwickshire County Council (WCC) unsuccessfully tried to bring in a pay and display system at Stratford Greenway in 2010, a group of residents agreed to take responsibility for locking and unlocking the Seven Meadows Road car park each day.
The volunteers – who open the car park even on Christmas Day – believe they have saved the council some £30,000 by doing the job for free over the past five years.
But WCC are again proposing to approve charging drivers to use the car park – for the third time since 2007.
It follows cabinet deferring the decision last year while a more detailed report into finances was compiled.
The recently published report found the car park could generate up to £44,000 annually.
Volunteer group spokesman Mike Watkins said: “The council has demonstrated a repeated determination over the last nine years to impose something it knows is vehemently opposed by local residents and council taxpayers.”
The group are concerned the introduction of parking charges – which would range from £1 for one hour to £3 for the day – would deter people from visiting the Greenway and push visitors to park on nearby residential streets.
Mr Watkins said: “The Greenway is a community place where people go for family days out, to see friends and even to quickly to walk their dogs. People won’t want to go to the land during their lunchbreak to walk their pets if they have to stop and pay for tickets.”
But WCC say the parking charges should be introduced to help reach savings targets.
A spokesman for Warwickshire County Council said: “Parking is charged for at all other WCC county parks, so introducing a parking charge at Stratford Greenway would bring the site into line with the rest of the countryside service.
“We acknowledge that the volunteer group at the Greenway have been doing excellent work in managing the Seven Meadows car park locally via a locking and unlocking rota.
“The current proposal to introduce parking charges is a response to budget and savings challenges and not in any way a reflection on the effectiveness of these volunteer efforts.”
The group say they will continue to open and close the car park unless cabinet agree with the recommendation and approve the proposal at a meeting next Thursday April 14.