Parking charges to start at Sandwell Valley Country Park
Controversial parking charges will be brought in at Sandwell Valley Country Park next month, it can be revealed, despite the move to make visitors pay being opposed by hundreds of people.
Sandwell Council has been inundated with objections from aggrieved members of the public – but the authority is pressing ahead with the move regardless.
Parking has always been free at the country park but visitors will now have to pay from 40p for an hour to £2 for more than four hours.
Those who don't pay will face £50 fines.
Around 200,000 cars park at the site each year.
Council bosses have refused to back down over the issue despite opposition to the measures and visitors will have to pay to park from November 1.
The cash-strapped authority says it must 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.
They have pointed to funding cuts of £130 million over the last five years as the reason for having to introduce the measures.
It was confirmed in August that bosses had ruled out a U-turn on the issue after considering dozens of objections.
There were 56 different reasons put forward as to why the charges should not be introduced.
Parking meters have already been installed and will come into use on the first day of November.
Charges are being 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 available for £40.
Highways boss Councillor David Hosell defended the move, which he said was a reluctant decision.
He said: "We reluctantly took the decision to introduce parking charges in the face of significant government cuts.
"We have given walkers who use the park in the mornings and evenings a chance to park without charges and regular visitors the option of an annual pass at a low rate."