Controversial plans to charge visitors for parking at five country parks in Caerphilly County Borough have been passed.
The new charges, which will bring in an estimated £80,000 a year, will apply to Parc Cwm Darran, Parc Penallta, Pen y Fan Pond, Sirhowy Valley County Park and Parc Coetir Bargoed.
They will be applicable seven days a week, with up to two hours costing £1 and a daily charge of £3.
Blue badge holders will be entitled to three hours for £1 and annual season tickets for use of all parks will cost £50 a year.
The charges were agreed by Caerphilly County Borough Council’s Cabinet on July 16.
More than 2,000 residents had signed a petition against the charges when they were first announced in April this year.
Eddy Blanche, Chair of Fochriw and Pentwyn Residents’ Association, regularly takes his granddaughter to Parc Cwm Darran.
He said: “It’s very blinkered and it’s very shortsighted. The number of visitors to the parks will fall.
“The council constantly talk about the need for people to get fit and active, then do this while paying for a cinema in Bargoed.”
Caerphilly County Borough Council has defended the charges citing budget pressures.
Cllr Ken James, Caerphilly County Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Planning and Sustainable Development, said: “This authority is facing unprecedented financial pressures over the coming years, and unfortunately it is inevitable that difficult decisions are having to be made.
“We have carefully considered the views of all our users and residents as part of the consultation.
“These charges have been implemented to generate funds to help pay for the upkeep of these sites and ensure they remain green spaces that people want to visit.
“Without these funds it would be extremely difficult for the council to maintain the high standards we currently see at these sites.”
Colin Mann, leader of the Plaid Cymru opposition at the council criticised the scheme.
He said: “It is disappointing that the council only entered into a consultation exercise after the proposals were publicised. The Cabinet clearly had made their mind up whatever the thousands of people who signed protest petitions had said.
“The cabinet member’s claim that the views of users and residents were carefully considered rings hollow. They really didn’t want to hear the views of the public.
“I question whether the new charges will bring in anything like the £80,000 a year estimated and I will be keeping a close watch on how much income this shortsighted scheme will generate.”