Furious residents have hit out at parking charges set to be introduced on the royal Sandringham Estate.
Parking charges are to be brought in at the country park from February, with visitors being charged £3 for up to two hours, £5 for up to four hours and £7 for all day.
Cars will also be banned from the scenic drive under the changes announced last week.
Your Local Paper has been inundated with letters from readers who felt the charges were unfair, with some suggesting locals were being penalised.
But the estate is standing by the proposals, saying the fees are needed to revamp and maintain visitor facilities.
Many readers told us they would no longer visit the park once charges were introduced, with some feeling a visit would soon be unaffordable. Others said they would instead walk at Wolferton or visit Holkham Estate and no longer visit Sandringham’s cafe.
One reader, who asked not to be named, said: “I am disgusted that we will now need to pay charges. My wife is disabled and a wheelchair user. I and many more will not be visiting again if we need to pay, we spend enough in the shop.”
Diana Reeves said: “I run over the estate at least three times a week and walk a dog. Parking fees makes this totally unreasonable and unaffordable and I will no longer be visiting.”
Sandringham Estate said the charges would “assist with the increasing cost of maintaining existing facilities and to allow funding for future developments to improve the visitor experience.”
A drop-in session was held in the Sandringham cafe last week where visitors could view plans and speak to staff.
The project is to include a re-fit of the on-site shop, a “major makeover” of the cafe and improvements to the car park, including lit pedestrian paths and a shuttle service to the facilities.
An arboretum is already being created next to the country park, near the existing sculpture trail.
Visitor services manager Garry Marsden said: “Around 250 people came along. We had quite a balanced feedback from people. They were interested to see what developments and investments are planned and it was nice to be able to discuss things in more detail with people.”
Mr Marsden said the parking would be controlled by automated number plate recognition system (ANPR) whereby a camera would recognise a vehicle’s number plate on entry to the park.
At the end of their visit, people would need to walk to a payment machine and enter their vehicle’s registration for charges to be calculated, he said.
Once payment is made, visitors will have 15 minutes to return to their vehicle and exit the park via a barrier which will recognise they have paid, or that they are a season ticket holder. In response to complaints from locals who use the park regularly and feel they are being penalised, Mr Marsden said: “We have introduced a season ticket for £40 for the year for car parking.
“At 77 pence a week it seems to me that’s really good value for what people enjoy.
“However, I understand because people have had it for free for 50 years it is a shock, but unfortunately there is a cost there and we have to meet that.”
Free parking will only be available for those staying less than 20 minutes, or to those visiting the house, museum or gardens.
Visitors are being asked not to park on grass verges.
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