ENGLISH Heritage has banned people from using tokens in the Battle Abbey car park when the site closes for the winter, following reports of people abusing the system.
It has been claimed that people have been stockpiling tokens over the summer months so they can enjoy cheap town centre parking when the site closes on weekdays during the winter.
The Battle Abbey car park is open to all, all year round, for a flat daily fee of £4.50.
But English Heritage members pay just £1, in return for a token to use to open the car park barriers during site opening hours.
The tokens are available from the Battle Abbey shop, but this, along with the Abbey itself, will revert to winter opening hours on November 4, shutting on weekdays until February 16.
Jo Stewart, property manager at Battle Abbey, believes some people working in the town, or commuting from Battle, have joined English Heritage purely to take advantage of the cheap parking.
Some have been caught passing their membership card to friends to allow them to claim tokens.
In March, at the start of the summer season, Jo had more than 1,000 tokens.
By September, she was down to just 26 and members of staff were forced to stand in the car park to let visitors without a token out.
The scam has cost English Heritage £1,600 to purchase new tokens.
Now Jo is putting a stop to the fraud by locking the token box when the attraction is closed.
She told the Observer: “They are going to be sitting on a pile of tokens this winter because I am locking the token box.
“People have been abusing their membership and stockpiling tokens and I have had to put an end to it because I have lost too much money.
“I wrote a letter to the Battle and District Chamber of Commerce to explain what I was doing and why I was doing it.”
Although Jo says the Chamber has supported her actions, some members of the public have not taken the move well.
She said: “I had an elderly lady phone me who was livid.
“But I’m livid because I’m losing money.”
Jo also moved to quash rumours that English Heritage is set to close the car park to members of the public.
She said: “People can still come and use our car park, but they will have to pay.”
From November 4, the token box will be locked during weekdays.
The box will be unlocked when the Abbey is open at weekends and during special events at the site.
The site will be open between 10am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays only.
Battle Abbey will be closed to visitors on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
For further information about opening hours at Battle Abbey, please go online and visit www.english-heritage.org.uk