MORE than 2,500 people have signed a petition against plans for parking charges at a popular city park.

Residents are furious about the county council's proposal to install car park machines at Worcester Woods Country Park.

Lucy Hodgson, the cabinet member behind the plans, said the scheme would raise £140,000 a year for the Countryside Greenspace Team, which looks after the council's parks, picnic places and nature reserves.

However, a Scouts group, which meets at the park every week, warned it would hurt the wallets of parents and volunteers.

Robert Sidley, county commissioner for Hereford and Worcester Scouts, said: "We are disappointed to learn that the council are proposing to introduce parking charges.

"We have over 100 young people who meet weekly at Worcester Woods Country Park.

"Both our volunteer leaders and parents will potentially be financially impacted if such a motion is agreed by the council.

"This is going to cost the Scouts that use these facilities over £1,000 extra a year. That money would be better spent on their programme, which not only benefits the young people but also our local community."

City councillor Richard Udall, who started the online petition against the plans on Saturday, described the proposed charges as a 'stealth tax' that would mainly affect the city's poor.

He said: "I have been surprised and very pleased with the overwhelming opposition to these mean proposals.

"The charges will damage the business of the cafe, endanger the success of Worcester Parkrun and hurt community groups like the Cubs and Scouts.

"Many people have spoken to me about their anger at the proposals, pointing out it is one of the only free visitor attractions in the city.

"Families enjoy fun, exercise and a great day out visiting the centre, especially those who cannot afford the high costs of other attractions. Charging will simply turn them away and would restrict access to the few who can afford to pay."

Cllr Udall added that a Labour-run council would scrap charges at county parks, as outlined in its last manifesto.

Mrs Hodgson will make a decision on the plans on November 21.

The county councillor justified the proposal in light of financial pressures on the council and said that the revenue will make the Countryside Greenspace Team self-financing.

If approved, the charges will start next summer.

The council plans to offer annual parking passes for £60, although these would be restricted to two hours per day.

The project is expected to cost £40,000, including the pay machines, which have not yet been bought, and changes to the car park barrier.

It will be a 'pay at exit' system, which the council thinks will reduce enforcement costs.

Parking at the site will be free for 15 minutes and then £1 for one hour, £2 for two, £3 for four, £7 for over four and £60 for an annual pass.

A document outlining the plans states that the proposed fee structure was based on the amount of time visitors spent at the park, which was worked out from comment cards and feedback from the Orchard Cafe.

There are 208 parking spaces at the countryside centre car park, including nine bays for the disabled, who will receive a concessionary rate, under the plans.