Rates demand for free car park
A FREE car park for users of Ashwell and Morden station has closed after the owner received a £1,300 rates bill from South Cambs District Council. Jeremy Fordham opened the 30-space car park in a field on his Odsey farm on a trial basis in May 2005. It p
A FREE car park for users of Ashwell and Morden station has closed after the owner received a £1,300 rates bill from South Cambs District Council.
Jeremy Fordham opened the 30-space car park in a field on his Odsey farm on a trial basis in May 2005.
It proved so popular with rail users that he allowed it to remain open until he received the £1,300 demand from the council in March this year.
Mr Fordham said: "When I received the rates bill I appealed to the council on the basis that there was no charge for the parking, and after all, it had supported the request to ask me to provide parking in the first place.
"I was told charge or no charge, rates were payable.
"I am perfectly willing to allow temporary free parking on my land but I do not expect to be charged by South Cambridgeshire District Council for doing so, so I closed the car park."
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Cambridgeshire County Council initially asked Mr Fordham to provide the parking, with the support of the district council and three parish councils.
County Councillor Linda Oliver said: "It's the principle that's at stake here.
"Mr Fordham was doing the community a huge service, but unfortunately the district council didn't look at it in that light.
"The closure of the car park has caused a lot of inconvenience, not only for the rail users, but also for residents."
While the car park will remain closed for the moment, Mr Fordham does have planning permission for a properly organised car park on the site.
This would accommodate 50 cars and be fitted with CCTV and a barrier entry system.
However, he said this would only be built once train operator First Capital Connect had finalised the proposed time table changes affecting Ashwell and Morden.
He said: "Once the dispute over the train timetable is satisfactorily resolved, and if there is proven demand for it, I may lay out this car park.
"A realistic annual charge would be payable quarterly in advance.