Dog-walkers' anger over Ashton Court car parking charges
DOG lovers have condemned new car parking charges which have been introduced at Ashton Court.
The £1 a day charge is to help raise revenue for the cash-strapped city council, which is currently making the biggest cuts in its history.
But disgruntled dog lovers who braved the wind and wet to take their pets for a walk on the first day of the new charge yesterday said the rolling parkland was given to the people of Bristol for them to use free of charge.
Ian Arnold, 58, a retired nurse from the city centre, who was walking George, an Irish setter, and Alfie, a Cavalier King Charles, said: "The estate was left to the people of Bristol by Esme Smythe but it seems as though the city council are trying to put people off from coming here and enjoying the place.
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"I feel particularly sorry for the elderly because they have limited means and it's a safe place to come and walk your dog.
"There is no charge in this car park before 9am but not everyone wants to walk their dog first thing in the morning."
Rowena Dugdale, 39, a self-employed illustrator from Southville, who was walking her dog, Paddy, a pug and bulldog cross, said: "I think the new charge is a tax on health.
"Even if you don't have a dog, it's good to come out to places like this.
"For dogs, it's much better for them to get some exercise where it's safe like this.
"The estate is something to be proud of and we should not have to pay to use it."
Mark Gibbins, a retired street trader from Clifton who walks his dog, Codie, a Keeshond, three or four times a week, said: "I'm not very pleased about the charge to be honest.
"I knew that after spending so much money on improving the estate, they would start charging for car parking.
"I guess the next thing we will see is a ban on dogs in some areas.
"They are only interested in staging events here now because that's what brings in the money."
But Sally Taylor, who runs a hairdressing business in Portishead with her husband, Rob, and were walking their dog, Ruby, a wirehaired vizsla, was happy to pay the new charge.
She said: "Ashton Park is an amazing place and I don't think one pound is much to pay. If you can afford to run a car, then you can afford the car parking fee."
But her husband, Rob, disagreed. He said: "The estate was given over for people to use free of charge – that's why events such as the Balloon Fiesta are free."
An outcry earlier in the year led to a petition with 300 signatures being submitted to the city council which expects to raise about £200,000 from the new fee.
Residents in Long Ashton are furious over the charge because they believe it will encourage visitors to the park to leave their vehicles in the village and clog up narrow streets.
The residents say they suffer enough from commuters who leave their cars in the village all day and cycle to work.
The estate is owned and managed by the city council but lies over the boundary in North Somerset.
Cabinet Councillor Gary Hopkins has said in the past that the council has invested heavily in the mansion house and parkland during the past few years.
The revenue generated from the charges would raise about £3 million in capita.
Mr Hopkins has said the estate attracted many people from outside Bristol and he wanted to make sure that Bristol council taxpayers got value for money. The outcry led to councillors making some concessions which include:
â Church Lodge Car Park (Dovecote) charges do not start until 10am as a concession for dog walkers and regular users of Ashton Court.
â Mansion House Car Park charges do not start until 9am as a concession.
â Clifton Lodge Car Park (Golf) charges start at 6am.
â Charges apply until the estate closes. This is due to the varying closing times of the estate throughout the year.
â The valid ticket will be useable in any Ashton Court car park for that day.
â You will be able to return during the same day without any additional charge.
â Disabled blue badge holders, motorcycles and scooters park for free.
â Valid tickets must be clearly visible in the windscreen of all vehicles. Failure to purchase or display a ticket will result in a penalty charge of £70 (reduced to £35 if paid within 14 days of the issue of the penalty charge notice).
â Regular patrols will be carried out across all car parks to ensure that the new car parking policy is being followed.