Plans for a new overflow car park at Bodiam Castle have been given the go-ahead despite concerns from parish councillors.
Rother District Council’s planning committee approved a National Trust application for a new overflow car park and landscaping works near to the castle grounds on Wednesday (November 14).
This would replace the existing overflow car park, which would cease to be used.
While recommended for approval, councillors heard how the scheme had proven controversial with several local groups, including Bodiam Parish Council and the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Unit.
Commenting on the objections Susan Prochak (Lib Dem. – Salehurst) said: “This is the most wonderful and highly visited attraction in the whole of Rother, so there is always a tension between the parish council and the 200 or so residents about dealing with this number of visitors.
“I would like then to draw your attention to their comments and also to the fact that there are footpaths all the way around this. It is visible all the way around in every direction. It terms of the views of the castle it doesn’t help.
“It will support the castle and National Trust and it will support tourism but I just wanted you to have a look at this because it is right out in open countryside and, as I said, not something that we would allow a tent on usually.”
Cllr Prochak added that she was pleased to see a condition had been put in place requiring details of the landscaping and car park layout be presented to the council before work begins.
In a letter to Rother planners, Bodiam Parish Council said it had concerns about the scheme and asked for assurances ‘that the increase in parking is not to accommodate increased visitor numbers’.
The letter said: “The pressures on the village of Bodiam and its surroundings from the visitors to the castle at peak tourist times are already intolerable.
“Any further numbers at peak times would be completely unacceptable and unsustainable in their impact on the village and contrary to the National Trust’s previously clearly stated position.”
Due to an administrative error, the objections were incorrectly listed as coming from Ewhurst Parish Council – rather than from Bodiam – in an officer’s report.
Speaking in connection with the comments listed, Tony Ganly (Con. – Ewhurst and Sedlescombe) said: “I take their point, however we are speaking about a temporary use and an infrequent use during the summer and at peak season only.
“Probably only the matter of a few days a year so I would have no objections.”
The comments were also pulled up by Mary Barnes (Con. – Ticehurst and Etchingham). She said: “I would just question why [Bodiam] Parish Council is saying, ‘we have received assurances that the increase in parking is not to increase visitor numbers’.
“That just seems to me to be a fairly odd remark, because you are then saying to Bodiam [Castle] that you must find a way of restricting your visitors to accommodate this obvious overuse of the land in the area.”
Cllr Barnes also asked if any discussions had taken place with the parish council to address these concerns.
Following a short debate the application was approved unanimously.