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Protest over forest parking charges

PUBLISHED: 17:44 25 June 2008 | UPDATED: 21:09 07 July 2010

A government body has been accused of lining its pockets following the introduction of a controversial car parking charging scheme in Thetford Forest.

One woodland user has threatened to stage a public protest against the mobile phone parking initiative, which was brought in by the Forestry Commission over the weekend.

A government body has been accused of lining its pockets following the introduction of a controversial car parking charging scheme in Thetford Forest.

One woodland user has threatened to stage a public protest against the mobile phone parking initiative, which was brought in by the Forestry Commission over the weekend.

The four month pilot project, which began on Saturday, means that drivers will have to pay up to £2 for parking at six sites in Thetford Forest Park that had previously been free.

Officials from the Forestry Commission say the scheme, which will force users to pay by mobile phone or land line, will generate revenue to help maintain car parks, paths, toilet facilities and potentially reinstate play equipment at some of the woodland sites.

But Paul Morgan, from Northwold, said the new system was “indefensible” money making and would deter people from visiting Thetford Forest.

The businessman, who submitted a Freedom of Information request to the government organisation last year, said the Forestry Commission made £2m in 2006/07 from car parking charges nationally and High Lodge visitor centre at Santon Downham had generated £200,000 through its road toll.

Mr Morgan added that he was planning to get a convoy of 100 cars together to stage a protest at one of the forest car parks in the near future.

“The Forestry Commission makes £2m a year in car parking charges and this is supposed to be an organisation that grows trees! It is literally a money making scheme and it is unbelievable,” he said.

The car parks that are running the pay by phone trail are Lynford Water, Lynford Zig Zag, Lynford Stag, Santon Downham, St Helen's, Two Mile Bottom and Rendlesham Forest, near Woodbridge.

Roger Woods, Forestry Commission spokesman, said there had been pay and display machines at some of their sites in the past, but had not been maintained.

“There is no obligation to provide any access to the forest. We do it because there is a need, but there is a cost related to that. We have created a culture where people expect everything for free and we are encouraging people to adopt the technology and habit of paying for car parking,” he said.

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