Parking charges lined up for beauty spot in bid to make £20k
Parking charges could be brought in at a beauty spot which attracts 150,0000 visitors each year, it has emerged.
It is currently free to park at Chasewater, between Burntwood and Brownhills.
Bosses are looking at introducing fees at country parks to bring in up to £20,000 a year. There are already charges at Cannock Chase and Milford Common, which they insist have not affected visitor numbers.
Chasewater is set across 890 acres, with one of the largest reservoirs in the West Midlands at its heart and an innovation centre with conference facilities and community rooms.
Staffordshire County Council insists it has not decided which sites would get parking charges.
Other locations under review are Hanbury Common in Uttoxeter and Consall Nature Park in the Staffordshire Moorlands.
Concerns have already been raised that the charges could drive away visitors.
Burntwood North ward councillor Sue Woodward said: "They are struggling to balance the books and it's now getting to the point where they are looking for change down the back of the sofa.
"There has got to be some proper consideration about this because installing machines could end up being more costly than what they will recoup.
"We want people to get out and use places like this because they improve health and wellbeing, and whatever charges are imposed would be significant.
"Anything that would discourage people from going to the parks would be a backwards step."
Council cabinet member for the economy, Councillor Mark Winnington, said: "Visitor numbers to our country parks have increased hugely in recent years which is great news, however, considerable further financial investment is needed to maintain them.
"We already charge at some of our car parks including at Marquis Drive and Milford Common on Cannock Chase and are looking at the possibility of extending this to other car parks.
"We are looking at our whole countryside estate and will be carrying out a feasibility study at each individual site.
"No specific sites have been identified yet.
"These are only proposals and would be considered as part of a public consultation."
The council says the initial investment required to cover set-up costs, should be recovered in one to two years.
Bosses will also look at season tickets for regular visitors.
Plans are being drawn up for a revamp of Chasewater, which could see it become one of the country's top watersports venues.
It could also house an education centre and community garden.
It was recently taken over by the county council and bosses are drawing up plans for its future.
One of the plans is for the site to become a venue for water-skiing, sailing, windsurfing, wakeboarding, triathlon and BMX.
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