Disappointment over new parking charges at Sandwell Valley Country Park
Visitors have expressed their disappointment over the new car parking charges introduced at Sandwell Valley Country Park.
The award-winning park has two working farm visitor centres, nature areas, an aerial assault course and adventure playground, a mountain bike trail, woodland, meadows and farmland.
The West Bromwich park is known for its picturesque setting and popularity amongst visitors but new parking charges starting from 40p have left visitors angry.
Prices start at 40p for an hour to £2 for more than four hours.
Sandwell Council received waves of objections to the decision but highways boss Councillor David Hosell defended the move.
Khan Mo, of West Bromwich, turned up to the park but left immediately when he realised that parking was no longer free.
The 44-year-old said: "I go on my morning jog for around an hour four to five times a week but the new parking charges mean it'll cost me around £5 a week.
"I can't afford to pay it so I'll have to find somewhere else to park. I've used the park for many years so I was shocked."
The cash-strapped authority said it needed to raise more cash to help meet the costs of the upkeep of the country park and its facilities.
Chiefs said the authority would otherwise struggle to afford the cost of maintaining the site.
Shirley and Laurence Hodson, both 75, use the park regularly to walk their dog.
Shirley said: "Nobody should be charged to go to a park and we're not very happy about it as we come three times a week just to walk the dog.
"It's only 40p but it's the principal of the matter."
She added: "It's a sad state of affairs really."
Though some visitors accepted the charges and felt they were reasonable.
Michelle Blakey, 68, of Sutton, said: "I think it's fair enough.
"They're minimal charges and the facilities such as the farm are so cheap to visit.
"I've been coming here for years. If the charge was £1 or something I might have had a moan but 40p isn't anything really."
Charges have been introduced at car parks across the site, at Lodge Hill Road, Swan Pool and Forge Mill Farm Visitor Centre daily between 9am and 6pm.
Blue badge holders will still be able to park for free.
A 12-month parking pass is also available for £40.
Councillor David Hosell previously defended the move, insisting the money made would be invested back into the park.
Speaking last month, he said: "We have reviewed parking charges and it has been necessary to alter some in certain ways. A lot of it is down to Government cuts."