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Suffolk Wildlife Trust's plan for car parking charges at Knettishall Heath sparks strong opinions

Moves to reintroduce car parking charges at a popular beauty spot have sparked strong opinions following their announcement this week.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust is poised to impose parking fees at Knettishall Heath within months in an effort to help curb anti-social behaviour and raise income.

The trust has applied to West Suffolk Council for planning permission to install an automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) camera, charging station and replacement car park signage at Knettishall Heath Nature Reserve’s main car park.

CUL Knettishall Heath summer. (46608799)
CUL Knettishall Heath summer. (46608799)

Payment terminals would also be installed, with the trust planning to reintroduce car parking charges at the nature reserve's main car park from June.

Its website said: “The reason for this is two-fold: 1) To ensure we are able to invest and plan for the long-term to manage the heath for wildlife and; 2) To ensure the best visitor experience by limiting out-of-hours anti-social behaviour.”

A spokeswoman said the heath enjoyed high visitor numbers, with any income from car parking helping to maintain our car parks, toilets and busy areas, as well as helping to limit anti-social behaviour and manage the reserve.

Village Feature - Knettishall. (46608789)
Village Feature - Knettishall. (46608789)

However, the move met a mixed reaction with Bury Free Press readers commenting on our Facebook page this week.

Neil Brockhurst said: “I love the walks here, but cannot afford to pay car parking fees a few times a week.”

Richard Smith said: “Will this not just encourage people parking on verges and inconsiderately on the roads in order to avoid paying?”

Helen Taylor said: "I grew up around Knettishall Heath. The Suffolk Wildlife Trust do such fantastic work they deserve to make a bit of revenue for providing a beautiful place to visit."

Jessica Barber suggested an annual parking permit be introduced for those who visit regularly to walk their dogs or exercise.

Debbie Donovan said: "Shocking. We live in the middle of nowhere, but everywhere is either owned by someone, and inaccessible, or now you have to pay. What sort of a country are we becoming?"

Carl Goldsmith suggested pay and display parking as an alternative to ANPR cameras, while Robert Archer said: "Ridiculous. How on earth will car parking charges stop anti social behaviour? It will not. This plan must be stopped."

Suffolk Wildlife Trust also intends to launch its own catering van based at the heath, selling take-away hot and cold drinks and refreshments.

“This will be a great enhancement for visitors and hopefully make visits even more enjoyable,” it added.

Last year, the trust received a grant from the Government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund. The funding has created new green jobs at Knettishall Heath to ensure habitats are managed and to help enable visitors to connect to nature.

Much of the heath is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

The heath is more than 430-acres in size and, as well as large areas of heath, is a diverse mosaic of habitats with woodland and riverside meadows.

Its main car park – where the new charges are planned – is open daily from 9am-4pm, while the middle car park is locked on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 4pm and open by 8am.

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