Ashton Court parking charge: The background
A parking charge has been brought into force at Ashton Court Estate, despite fierce opposition.
From today, drivers will have to pay £1 a day to park their cars at the Estate.
The move, which was first floated late last year, attracted criticism from Long Ashton Parish Council, who feel the Estate should be free to access. And an online petition opposing the charge was signed by 1,356 people.
Just two miles from the centre of Bristol, Ashton Court Estate is a major recreational area for the city and North Somerset.
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Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
With more than 1.6 million visitors annually, it’s the UK’s third busiest country park.
Owned by Bristol Council since 1959, the Grade II* registered landscape boasts 850 acres of woodland and meadows. Visitors can enjoy woodland walks and deer parks, as well as a whole host of events which take place in the grounds each year.
From the Balloon Fiesta to the Producers Market, the Estate is home to some of the city’s best-loved events, while the Grade I listed Ashton Courts Mansion hosts idyllic weddings, dinners, balls and banquets.
The majority of Ashton Court Estate is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and at County level is a Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI).
The first owners of Ashton Court Estate as we know it was the family “de Lions”, originally from Lyons in France.
In 1495, the estate changed hands and was bought by John Smyth, a wealthy merchant from Bristol. However, he never took up residence at Ashton Court Estate and it was the later Smyths who developed the estate to its present appearance.
Thomas Smyth, MP built the new south facade in 1632 and Sir John Hugh Smyth built the Neo-Gothic North West Wing in 1770 after demolishing the medieval domestic wing.
Ashton Court Estate has long prided itself on having free entry and free parking. Until today, the four days of the Balloon Fiesta during August were the only times parking charges applied.
According to the Ashton Court Estate Strategic Management Plan, published in 2009, the management of the Estate “is deliberately focused on providing a high quality ‘National Trust style’ visitor experience which is free at the point of delivery.”
Three car parks are available at the Estate: Mansion car park (access via Kennel Lodge Road), Church Lodge car park (access via Ashton Road situated on the B3128 - by the Dovecote pub) and golf course/miniature railway car park (access via Clifton Lodge situated on the A369 Bristol - Portishead Road).
In 2004, £4.5 million pounds of Heritage Lottery Funding was secured as part of a £6 million grant for restoration and development works project. An element of this funding was spent on improving the visitor experience and infrastructure, including the development of improved car parking.
Councillor Gary Hopkins says the parking charge has been brought in because the authority needs to raise funds for maintenance. He said the move could raise £200,000 per year.