Visitors to historic site face 'alarming' new parking charge

The ruins of the Roman fort at Burgh Castle near Great Yarmouth. Burgh Castle is a popular holiday v

Visitors to the ruins at Burgh Castle have enjoyed free parking but Norfolk Archaeological Trust has won permission to install parking machines and a number plate recognition camera. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2016

New car parking charges look set to be introduced at a Norfolk beauty spot after planners agreed charging equipment could be installed.

The fees at Burgh Castle Roman Fort are needed to plug a funding gap at the site which could potentially close if not enough was raised according to the Norfolk Archaeological Trust, the charity which runs multiple sites across Norfolk.

The bid had drawn opposition and suggestions of an honesty box or "a man with a satchel" to trial the impact of charging which many thought visitors would shun and lead to parked cars clogging up local roads.

Views from the new boardwalk that has been installed at Burgh Castle Roman Fort. Picture: Nick Butch

Views from the new boardwalk that has been installed at Burgh Castle Roman Fort. Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Professor Owen Warnock, chair of the planning sub-committee of the Norfolk Archaeological Trust, told a Great Yarmouth Borough Council planning committee that if the applications were refused, it would mean Burgh Castle would have to hire a parking attendant.

That would require increasing the charges at the car park, which was not something they wanted to do, and the possibility of more displaced parking.

Prof Warnock said: "While the trust recognises and sympathises with the concerns of local residents, unfortunately it is the only realistic alternative open to the trust.

The ruins of the Roman fort at Burgh Castle. Picture: James Bass

The ruins at Burgh Castle are a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a big draw for sight-seers and dog walkers. However, the costs of keeping it going are getting ever harder to meet and visitors are being asked to pay to park. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2016

He said charging at the gate, using a parking attendant, was "obviously more expensive, which is why car parks everywhere use machines rather than attendants".

"This would inevitably lead to higher charges and reduced flexibility of access to the car park," he said.

In fact in papers submitted to the council's development control committee, he said two attendants would be required at a cost of £50,000.

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He also moved to suggest that any temporary permission to monitor the impact could be deliberately sabotaged by "selfish" visitors keen to prove that paying to park would cause the "mayhem" that was feared.

Views from the boardwalk at Bugh Castle Roman Fort. The village has a number of holiday parks and a

Views from the boardwalk at Burgh Castle Roman Fort. - Credit: Nick Butcher

Local people had expressed concern about the requested measures having the knock-on impact of causing visitors to the fort to park elsewhere in the village.

Council officers said this was only an "assumed behavioural impact" however, rather than a material planning concern. 

The parish council had said in its objection they feared damage to verges, and that "total gridlock" along narrow roads would lead to "angry drivers", residents unable to access their homes, and an "extremely alarming"  danger to horse riders.

Suggested parking charges are £1.50 for two hours, £2 for four, and £4 all day.