A decision to introduce car parking charges at a popular park has been described as a “sad day” for Watford.

Members of the Cabinet at Watford Borough Council last night voted to bring in charges at Cassiobury Park.

For the first time ever, visitors will have to pay to park in Gade Avenue car park.

The Gade Avenue car park will be redeveloped to fit 213 spaces; currently it has a capacity of 132. The car park will be redesigned and improved and this will include the overflow extension.

The first two hours will be free; however drivers will pay £2 to park for two to three hours, £3 for three to four hours, £4, for four to five hours, and £5 for five to six hours. People will not be able to park for any longer than six hours, which is the current restriction too.

Charges will apply seven days a week.

Watford Observer:

It is currently free to park

The council says it is bringing in the charges to deter commuters who use Watford Met using the car park, while income will allow reinvestment in Cassiobury Park and maintenance costs of the paddling pools.

Residents and ward councillors were consulted, the council says.

The council believes enforcing charges will bring in £200,000 a year. An option to charge up to two hours free and an all-day charge – up to six hours – of £2 was not taken up. That would have brought in up to £100,000.

Cashless payment machines will be brought in to deter crime and disorder while the car park will also be closed after dark to reduce any anti-social behaviour in the area.

Watford Observer:

The overflow car park will be turned into a proper car park

A survey undertaken by the council earlier this year found that half the amount visitors tend to stay at the park for two hours or less.

The council has confirmed that club members, including those for croquet and bowls, will have to pay the car parking charges too.

Labour group leader Cllr Nigel Bell says the council has taken a “gamble”.

He said: “It’s a symbolic day and a sad day for Watford. This is out great historic park which is well used. I wonder if it will put people off going. I have asked whether this will be reviewed in the future. I’m wary and it’s a gamble.”

Watford Observer:

Elected Mayor of Watford Peter Taylor said: “Our plans more than double the number of parking spaces available, which will help ease congestion on residential roads on busy days and the car park overall will be substantially upgraded.

“We know that many councils in the country now charge for parking in their parks but I am pleased that we will continue to offer free short stay parking so that a large number of visitors will continue to visit for free.”

The improvements to the car park are expected to be completed by Easter 2019 and the car park charges will be introduced at the same time.

As part of the improvements to the car park, there will be early warning notifications on car parking availability on Cassiobury Park Avenue, more disabled parking and it will look much more “attractive”.

A decision has not been made yet as to whether charge visitors between October and March. (from October 2019).

What do you think of the decision to introduce charges? Email nathan.louis@london.newsquest.co.uk