VILLAGERS  in Lydford are fighting to keep their car park free – launching a petition in a bid to persuade Dartmoor National Park Authority to drop planned charges.

The national park authority plans to start charging £3 for three hours parking and £5 for over three hours. The charges were due to be introduced on May 1 along with the same tariffs in Haytor, Postbridge and Meldon Reservoir car parks. They were postponed but are now due to start in January.

The car park is currently closed for resurfacing which villagers point out has shown the level of chaos the changes will cause, as residents and visitors are forced to park on the streets in the village.

They say the car park, opposite the Castle Inn. is used by residents more than tourists, to drop off parcels and run errands. Staff working at the pub use the car park and people attending services at nearby St Petrock’s Church do also.

Parish councillor Jonathan Gilpin has set up an online petition calling on the DNPA to drop the charges (see under ‘Save our free parking at Lydford’).

He said: “The car park charges are gong to impact on residents most. It will be a minimum of £3 for three hours. So even if you are just dropping off a parcel to a neighbour you have to pay that. Sometimes people want to drop off cakes to the Nicholls Hall or drop something off at the church. The car park is used in lots of ways, not just by people going onto the moors or going to see the sites. That is why we feel that the car park should be free.”

Lydford resident Anthony Purnell said: “I feel that there has been a lack of consideration and forethought given to the likely disruption to village life and despite genuine public concerns regarding the consequences of such actions.” 

He said the charges amounted to "an unjust and unfair tax’"which would mean people in the village having to pay £5 a day to park "that’s in the region of an extra £1,500 a year to park their cars to go to work". 

Castle Inn landlord Jarad Lothian said the new car parking charge would be an additional cost to his staff. 

A DNPA spokesperson said: “Fees from parking are vital for us in maintaining car parks, visitor services and continuing our outstanding conservation work to help keep Dartmoor special for everyone to enjoy – a pay and conserve model. Unfortunately, and much like local authorities across the country, the reality of continued financial challenges cannot be ignored. Over the last 12 months Dartmoor National Park Authority has needed to make difficult decisions, including a review of parking fees.

“We understand there are concerns in Lydford over the introduction of new tariffs. We’re committed to continuing the constructive dialogue we’ve had with the parish council and others so we can explore possible alternatives to the formal introduction of charges. Our aim is to find a solution that strikes a fair balance between running costs, value for money and community benefit.”