Car park signs fuel outrage

PARKING charges at a Lytham landmark are moving closer after payment machines arrived at Lowther Pavilion.

But those opposed to the charges at Lowther Gardens say their fight is not finished yet – with the Lord of the Manor of Lytham joining the campaign.

Giant boards telling motorists how much they will have to fork out to park at the historic gardens have also been installed alongside ticket machines at the 65-space site.

Council bosses hope installing the machines outside Lowther Pavilion – which now looks likely to be saved from council cutbacks – will raise around 15,000 per year after initial set-up costs.

Robert Silverwood, 51, who runs Lowther Gardens cafe and has been fighting the plans, says he is "sickened" by the onset of charges.

He said: "A lot of people are just not going to come to Lowther.

"It is a lovely facility which offers people a tranquil place to enjoy. One of my customers who comes in three times a week has already told me she won't be coming in again.

"People have already told me there is no way they will pay to park and then spend money with us."

Mr Silverwood is preparing a legal challenge after uncovering an agreement showing the land – which was donated by benefactor John Talbot Clifton, then Lord of the Manor of Lytham, in 1905 – should be free to use.

James Hilton, the current Lord of the Manor, wrote to the council to protest at the charges but was told the matter had already been approved by the authority.

He said: "I felt the gardens were given to the people of the town for their enjoyment, which should be kept free of charge. The council in its wisdom has decided to do this."

The charges were passed at a stormy council meeting in August despite opposition from 10 councillors .

The gardens became a charitable trust, with Fylde Council as trustee last year. The charges will only apply before 6pm and motorists will be given an hour's free parking before that.

Coun Simon Renwick, cabinet member for culture and tourism, said: "We did this for a number of reasons, mainly to help support the work that goes on at Lowther in terms of the garden, productions and leisure facilities.

"We made the charging as sympathetic as possible to take into consideration all current users, including the first hour free.

"The estimated 15,000 income will go directly to the up keep of the gardens."