Chelmsford residents and other visitors to Hylands Estate are now being asked for their views on how parking charges will be implemented at the historic venue. Chelmsford City Council is proposing charges at the estate’s three car parks (with effect from this summer) after the pandemic left a £3 million hole in the council’s finances this coming year, with a further shortfall in future.
The charges will not start until this summer, so there is time for residents to feed in views about the way in which they will be implemented. They will bring Hylands Estate into line with most other country parks in Essex, the majority of which already ask visitors to pay for parking.
Under the proposals, residents of the Chelmsford City Council area will be entitled to a 40% parking discount, with a daily charge limited to £3. Visitors from outside the city (who do not contribute to the upkeep of the park through their council tax) will be expected to pay a higher rate of £5.
Chelmsford residents will be able to sign up for a season ticket to obtain a further discount, and residents receiving council tax support and Blue Badge holders will not have to pay.
Hylands Estate is one of the region’s main attractions and, at 574 acres, the largest park in Chelmsford. Each year, the net cost to the city’s taxpayers is around £520,000 (even after income) for the famous grade II* listed site, which includes ancient woodlands, wetlands, ornate pleasure gardens and award-winning play areas.
The City Council is conscious of the possible impact on parking in Writtle and nearby roads and will consult directly with Writtle Parish Council and residents.
Chelmsford City Council Leader, Cllr Stephen Robinson, said, “The profound impact of Covid-19 on the finances of every single council has forced a complete rethink of council budgets. Chelmsford City Council relies on service fees and charges more than many councils and so has been hit harder than many by income vanishing from car parks, events, theatre and leisure centres.
“It is also unfair that thousands of visitors from outside Chelmsford contribute nothing to the running of Hylands House and Park. Car park charging will ensure, for the first time, that they do contribute to the running of this magnificent destination.”
“Proposing parking charges at Hylands isn’t a conversation we expected to be having a year ago and is not something we do lightly. However, the pandemic has left us with few options. When preparing the coming year’s budget, we were facing a £7.55 million shortfall.
“Even with extra funding from central government, Council income remains £3 million short for 2021-22, with similar challenges for future years’ budgets.”
The Council’s consultation on how to implement charges for parking at Hylands will run for the next four weeks and anyone who visits the park is eligible to take part, even if they live outside the city. The survey aims to find out more about how and when people use the estate and will allow preferences for options, such as season tickets for frequent park users, to be recorded.
Cllr Robinson says it’s an important opportunity to contribute to these plans:
“It’s a difficult time for everyone and we know these proposals have already prompted much discussion. The aim of the survey is to ensure that future parking charges will be fair, while also considering the need to raise income to protect park maintenance and other key services, like bin collection and street sweeping.
“Please fill in the survey – it’s a chance to have your say. We can’t wish away the budget pressures forced upon us by coronavirus, but your responses can shape what’s coming in the future.”
The Council has proposed to introduce parking charges at Hylands Estate as part of its budget for 2021/2 which will be put to Full Council on 24 February. The Hylands Estate car parking consultation will be open until 16 March: www.chelmsford.gov.uk/hylandsconsultation.
Tuesday 16 February 2021