Parking charges 'will not help' Shropshire hills visitor site

Introducing pay and display parking at a site deep in the rural Shropshire hills may hurt a visitor centre more than it helps it, supporters have said.

Parking charges, including the installation of a possible pay and display machine, are being considered for a site on the Stiperstones in south west Shropshire, next to the hill's nature reserve and The Bog Visitor Centre, which remembers a long lost Shropshire mining village in the remote spot.

But those who run the centre have said the move could worsen parking on the road up to the site, or even put off people coming in the first place.

Shropshire Council has said the idea is only a suggestion among a range of measures to boost heritage site funding being considered at the moment, and a full consultation would be carried out if the authority was to push ahead with the idea.

The visitor centre is based in a former Victorian school that is one of the few remaining buildings of a lost lead and barytes mining village, and has been run by The Bog Visitor Centre CIC since 1996.

Noel Evans, chairman of the organisation, said Shropshire Council had recently resurfaced the nearby car park and officers had mentioned the suggestion to him but said they would need to return to discuss it in more depth.

He said: "If it did go ahead we would have two concerns, firstly that it would cause chaos because as we understand it the car park would not be manned and you may get people parking all up the side of the road.

"Secondly that people would not come up to the top here and we would start losing visitors at the centre."

The centre attracts 20,000 visitors a year and has a certificate of excellence from TripAdvisor.

Peter Phillips, chairman of Enterprise South West Shropshire and a former Shropshire councillor, said that in any case pay and display machines were an urban solution and would be out of place in such a rural setting.

He said: "Here we are, trying to encourage the quiet enjoyment of the countryside, encouraging people to get out for their health and all that, and Shropshire Council treats it like suburbia.

"The answer is easy. Like Snailbeach Village Hall car park, you build an unobtrusive, stone-clad obelisk as an ‘honesty box’. They are happy that it works OK."

Clare Fildes, Shropshire Council's outdoor partnership manager said: "There are no plans currently, to introduce car parking charges at the Bog Mine and Stiperstones national nature reserve.

"Having said that the funding situation for country parks and heritage sites is under considerable pressure and a range of measures are being considered to address this problem.

"If charging for car parking is proposed in the future it would only be introduced following local consultation. The details associated with charging would be discussed with local people at that time and all views would be taken into account before any final decisions were made."

The Bog was once a thriving village with over 200 buildings and an aerial ropeway which sprung up around the mining of lead and barytes. Details of those that lived there are now held in the centre, while much of the village has been reclaimed by nature and is a haven for wildlife.

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