Removal of free parking ‘will jeopardize Chobham Common’ as nine Surrey Heath car parks face increased charges

The Surrey Heath Executive’s plans to cut free parking in Chobham will put their protected common moors at risk, councilors who oppose it have claimed.

In a bid to raise money for Surrey Heath Borough Council, the executive decided at the end of January to reduce free parking in Chobham High Street from two hours to one.

The car park is used by walkers at Chobham Water Meadows – a suitable alternative natural green space (SANG), meaning people are encouraged to walk there rather than on Chobham Common.

Read more: The nine Surrey Heath car parks that could be more expensive to use

Councilor Victoria Wheeler (Ind, Windlesham & Chobham) said having to pay to park would mean it was not “a more attractive alternative” to the Common, a special protection area in Thames Basin Heaths which is home to rare birds like the Dartford and Nightjar warbler, susceptible to visitors.

At the performance and finance review committee last night (February 17), she told the business portfolio holder: ‘You are jeopardizing the common and we have to accept that on this board.

“Chobham’s increase for three hours is 400 per cent. That’s quite a significant contribution to try to meet some of the deficit for this council.”

According to the executive’s plans, car parks at Bagshot, Burrell Road in Frimley and Watchetts Road in Camberley would also see their free parking reduced to one hour from two.

And pay and display would be introduced in the currently free Frimley Green car park on Wharf Road, although it will remain free for an hour.

The plans prompted three separate challenges, from advisers Wheeler, Morgan Rise (LD, Mytchett & Deepcut) and Cliff Betton (LD, Frimley Green).

None of those who lodged their opposition were against plans to raise car park rates in Camberley town center by 20 pence per hour, for the first time since 2014.

Or bring the load back for the first two hours in the Knoll Road multi-storey near Camberley Library, now that the public domain works in the High Street have been completed.

Resistance was to changes to the village car parks, where rates have remained the same since 2009.

Cllr Rise said there should have been consultation on what is “a major change in the way of life in the villages”.

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Cllr Betton said: “The amount of money they are likely to collect from Village car parks is tiny, but the loss in service levels for these Villages is far greater.

“Businesses that have struggled for the past two years will now face another cost, another deterrent for their customers to visit their local store.

“Currently residents of Frimley Green can walk to their dentist. But if staff can’t park they will have to go elsewhere.”

Councilor Colin Dougan, business and transformation portfolio holder, replied: “I have no doubt that businesses would prefer that parking fees not increase, but this council must cover the cost of this service and he must contribute to this service. normally provides to the budget.

“It’s arguable that by charging users a more appropriate fee for using the service, it also has a positive impact on residents who don’t subsidize that use.”

He said Chobham would still have an hour of free parking and Chobham Water Meadows took him less than half an hour to go around.

Chobham Common is a designated Special Protection Area

Cllr Wheeler said: “If you knew the area a little better you would have recognized that the SANG area is connected to a large number of very regularly used footpaths which give a number of 10km circular routes.”

Cllr Dougan replied, “We don’t provide parking for people to do 10km routes; we provide parking for people to do 2.5km circular SANG route.”

The review panel does not have the power to overrule the executive’s decision, but voted unanimously to suggest delaying a final decision until the board has heard from Natural England and Surrey Wildlife Trust, and consulted businesses and residents of Frimley Green near Wharf Road. The executive will now consider his comments.

Surrey Heath car parks that would see price increases

The number of places is in parentheses:

Camberley, Main Square (800);

Camberley, Knoll Road (606);

Camberley, Surrey Heath House (144);

Camberley, Yorktown (137);

Camberley, Watchetts Road (36);

Chobham, High Street (96);

Bagshot, Le Carré (95);

Frimley, Burrell Road (60);

Frimley Green, Quay Road (23).

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