A county news website has urged a council to “give us our countryside back” over claims a car park charge has led to thousands of people boycotting rural areas.
The Reach plc-owned site is now petitioning the council directly in a bid to get the policy scrapped.
Petitions of this nature which attract 100 or more signatures can be presented to a meeting of the authority’s cabinet, an individual cabinet member or a committee – who then have to consider the petition and decide whether to take the requested action.
Editor Deanne Blaylock told HTFP: “Surrey County Council introduced parking charges at a number of our countryside car parks in July to the dismay of thousands of residents. We’ve been covering the issue extensively for months – expressing both our readers’ points of view and that of the council. But enough is enough.
“Having given the scheme three months to bed in it’s gone from one disaster to another. The glorious autumn sunshine wasn’t enough to entice people back to our beauty spots and furthermore, parking meters introduced at two of the car parks have now been vandalised at yet more cost to the taxpayer.
“We’re fortunate to live and work in a beautiful part of the country and we’re very proud of this; we care passionately about our countryside. But it should be free for all, not just accessible to the better off.
“The public is already voting with its feet by boycotting the commons – indeed 9,328 people have already signed a petition on change.org calling for the charges to be scrapped – but it’s sad to see our commons deserted.”
Added Deanne: “It’s time Surrey County Council admitted its initiative has failed and reinstate free parking. Give us our countryside back.”
The council will launch an eight-week consultation this month, asking people how they use the commons, and will look at whether concessions on the charges should be made available for low income families.
Defending the policy, a Surrey County Council spokesman said: “With the massive financial pressure we face, our initial aim is to make management of the countryside self-financing and parking charges help to achieve that.
“Those benefiting most contribute more so everyone can still enjoy our beautiful countryside and all the money raised will be reinvested in improving and protecting our rural spaces for generations to come.”