Why we're putting ticket machines in more of our car parks


Upgrade works to Exmoor National Park Authority-run car parks, including the installation of contactless ticket machines, are planned to go ahead following a proposal passed at last month’s Authority meeting (8th September).

The decision follows a 44 per cent drop in funding from central Government for National Parks since 2011. It comes amid mounting pressure for National Parks to dial up their response to the climate and nature crises and, as the pandemic deepens, to manage unprecedented visitor numbers and provide a much-needed dose of nature’s medicine.

It costs Exmoor National Park £100K per year to maintain the 10 car parks and 9 public toilets it owns. The introduction of ticket machines at Tarr Steps and Valley of Rocks more than a decade ago has helped increase income, but not sufficiently to cover these costs. Contactless methods of payment are also considered safer for staff and users in these times of Covid.

Dan Barnett, Access and Recreation Manager for Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “Adding contactless machines to some car parks, while investing in increased parking capacity and improved facilities, has potential to double income from our car parks.

“This could be achieved without even requiring most visitors to pay more than is already requested under the existing cash cairn system. And by providing a safe, convenient way for people to pay we hope everyone will support the great work that goes into protecting and maintaining our wonderful National Park.

“A day charge transferable between car parks, season tickets and concessions all form part of the proposal put to Members and will hopefully help create a system that is fairer while on the whole creating a much better visitor experience.”

Ashcombe car park in Simonsbath will be the first to undergo work, where £37K of essential maintenance are needed to renovate the toilet block.

It’s estimated that up to £10K could be raised annually there with the installation of a contactless ticket machine charging a fee of £2 per half-day or £3 per day (10am-6pm) – a 10-fold increase on the current cash cairn system which raises only £1K annually.

All income generated would go towards maintaining car parks and toilets and helping fund the National Park’s core education, access and conservation work.

Francis Schott, Chairman of Exmoor Parish Council, said: “The Parish Council understands the dilemma facing the National Park and like them we want to ensure a safe, pleasant stay for visitors, with the level of facilities one could reasonably expect. In Simonsbath the National Park have among other things funded and installed a wonderful accessible trail out on the Two Moors Way to Wheal Eliza, with all the drama of the Barle Valley, and well-maintained amenities are crucial to ensuring it can be enjoyed by all.

“The National Park is also working with the Parish Council to find additional, safe parking elsewhere in the village to address a pre-existing problem we have with roadside parking.”

Sarah Bryan, Chief Executive of Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “I’m very grateful to Members for their support in bringing forward this proposal, which is vital to improving visitor facilities while ensuring the beauty of the National Park that inspires millions to visit each year continues to be protected and left better for future generations.

“Those who founded our National Parks 70 years ago in the wake of two World Wars had a dream they should become, not just cultural symbols, but also places of recovery. This summer has seen that vision reawakened as thousands turned to the outdoors to escape the uncertainties of the pandemic. On Exmoor we have welcomed old friends and first-time visitors and it’s my passion to ensure that in future our facilities do more to provide a warm welcome and help people get the most from their visit.”

The move accords with Government calls, echoed in Defra’s 2019 Landscapes Review, for all National Park Authorities to seek to diversify their incomes to reduce reliance on core-funding and provide better long-term financial stability.

Published: 7 October 2020

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Ailsa Stevens
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