COUNCIL bosses defended a public consultation over new parking charges at two beauty spots after it was claimed the “hurried” process ignored the views of those affected.

The plan for Otley Chevin and Golden Acre Park in Leeds is designed to help the council plug a massive budget shortfall but faces huge public opposition.

Of 4,493 people who completed a survey seeking views on proposed charges at Golden Acre, 80 per cent were opposed. Some 84 per cent disagreed with charges being introduced at Otley Chevin Forest Park after 2,964 took part.

Questions were raised over the consultation process at the council’s Environment, Housing and Communities board.

Councillor Barry Anderson, Conservative member for Adel and Wharfedale, said the evidence gathered in the consultation did not justify charges being imposed.

He said: “The vast majority of people, 80 per cent of people, objected to the proposals. So what’s the point of having a consultation if you are going to ignore what the residents are saying?

“Basically I think the credibility of consultations and the council have been thrown into question in respect of this one.”

Cllr Anderson said people’s health would be affected if parking charges made it harder to visit the parks.

He added: “To access the Chevin, it’s impossible by public transport unless you’re going to go up a massive hill, and the bus service that goes past Golden Acre is diabolical.

“It’s been done in a hurry and the whole thing has left residents with a bad taste in their mouths.”

James Rogers, the council’s director of communities, housing and environment, pointed out there would be a second stage of consultation on the proposals.

He said: “We are still mid-process on this particular issue. No decision has been made.”

But Cllr Anderson said: “You have already been given information that it doesn’t have support. It’s far better to say no now and look for alternatives.”

A report to the meeting said charges would help fund resurfacing, signage, and ongoing maintenance.  It said: “If funding is not identified, then the car parks will continue to decline with limited opportunity for any significant improvements.”

The parking charges plan is among the wide-ranging measures being considered by the council to raise cash and cut costs.

Mr Rogers added: “Clearly the funding will help contribute to the significant budgetary pressures we have got in delivering a parks and countryside service, servicing and supporting 4,000 hectares of green space across the city.”