Ashton Court parking charge proposal a 'retrograde step'

image captionThe Bristol International Balloon Fiesta takes place on Ashton Court Estate

Plans to charge for parking at a historic attraction near Bristol have been described as a "tax on health".

Thousands of people every week visit the Ashton Court Estate, which boasts a stately home and acres of parkland.

Liberal Democrat-controlled Bristol City Council is looking to charge £1 per car as part of measures to balance its budget.

But it is feared motorists will use Long Ashton Road to park for free.

Long Ashton Parish Council chairman Nigel Moorcroft said he was concerned this could delay emergency vehicles.

But, he added, the parish council did not want to blight the village with double yellow lines either.

"A lot of money from the lottery went into building the car parks for people to enjoy the park.

"Ashton Court is a big free park dedicated for the benefit of local people.

"This is a retrograde step. To charge for its use is like putting a tax on health," he added.

'Value for money'

Gary Hopkins, cabinet member for transport on Bristol City Council, said it had invested a "huge amount" of money in the grounds and the mansion house.

He hoped the move would raise some £200,000 per year - allowing £3m in capital to be raised.

"Ashton Court is outside the city boundary - quite a lot [of visitors] are from outside the city.

"Things are tight for Bristol [council] tax payers and we've got to make certain we get value for money.

"We want to make it more self-sustaining for the future," he added.

Formerly the family home of the Smyths, Ashton Court Estate is now an 850-acre country park.

The grounds host many public events each year including the world famous Bristol International Balloon Fiesta which attracts a crowd of 500,000 over its four-day run.

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