CAMPAIGNERS protesting the borough council’s decision to introduce parking charges at Eastrop made their voices heard at a demonstration.

Dozens of people gathered at Eastrop Park to wave placards calling for free parking and chant ‘free parking for our park’.

Read more: More than 500 sign Eastrop parking charges petition

The demonstration was organised by Councillor Paul Basham, a Norden borough councillor for Basingstoke and Deane Independent Group, after more than 1,100 people signed his petition against the parking charges which will see visitors having to pay £8 to stay the day.

With support from Labour councillors and the Women’s Equality Party Basingstoke, Cllr Basham is calling on the council to review the decision, made by Councillor Hayley Eachus, cabinet member for recycling, waste, and regulatory services.

Arnold Williams, a father-of-two from Winklebury, said he will stop visiting the park when the parking charges start – expected to be this coming week.

The 57-year-old said: “We come here quite often. The charges are not good because it will reduce the number of people coming. I think lots of kids use it and it’s a nice place to come when the weather is good. If they start charging, we won’t come here.”

Grandmother Ingrid Howard, 75, from Bramley attended the demonstration and said: “There are few places that people can take their children that is free. This is a park that is free to enjoy. I took my children here growing up and I want today’s children to enjoy it.”

Sylvia Martin, 75, from Basingstoke was also there to object to the charges.

She said: “I bring my grandchildren here now and we come here for the day and have a picnic and bring swimming stuff or they might go fishing. It’s a day out.”

Andy Clark, 69, from Basingstoke was there with members of the Model Boat Club, which has around 100 members.

He has been visiting Eastrop twice a week since 2004 with the club and said: “We enjoy sailing our boats and socialising with the other members. We have 101 members of which 10 per cent have some kind of disability. We are totally inclusive and for some people it’s the only social interaction they have because they live on their own. It’s the highlight of their week.

“The charges are going to impact the length of time people can afford to come. Some people might not be able to afford it at all.”

Richard Black attended as a representative of community activist group Fight Back.

The 25-year-old from Guildford said: “We used to come here on a Saturday to give out free bird feed and water. We believe public spaces should be free.”

Joining members of the public were representatives from different political parties in Basingstoke.

Councillor Andy McCormick, a Labour councillor for Brighton Hill, said: “It’s not fair to charge people to use leisure facilities.”

Priya Brown, from the Women’s Equality Party Basingstoke, said: “We are disappointed in the democratic process to enable this to happen. It will impact the most disadvantaged in the community.”

Cllr Basham plans to present the petition at the next full council meeting.

He said: “We hoped for 1,000 signatures and we sailed through that and we have still got four or five weeks to the full council meeting which is when we will present the petition. It shows the strength of feeling amongst local people.

“It was a decision that was objected to, it had a high level of objection, and the council said they addressed that by reducing the charges to make it less discriminatory. But you can’t be less discriminatory.”

He added: “I’m delighted to see a united opposition to this.”

A public consultation on the proposals saw just one person support the plans.

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s cabinet member for resident services Cllr Rebecca Bean said: “The council is aware of the petition on the introduction of parking charges at Eastrop Park. When the petition is received it will be dealt with in line with the council’s petition process.

“When considering the introduction of charges at the car parks at Eastrop we carried out two consultations.

“The proposed tariffs are far lower than our standard short stay car parking charges - £1 for two hours and £2 for four hours – while longer term parking charges will be the same as other town centre car parks.

“This strikes the balance between not restricting access to a low-cost town centre activity for people and families and deterring those who are parking there to go to other places in the town centre. The charges will help the council to provide better maintenance, management and improvement of the Eastrop Park car parks.”

To sign the petition click here.

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