WOKING MP Jonathan Lord’s petition to reinstate three hours of free parking at the Woking Park car park has reached the 400 signatures required for it to be heard at a meeting of the borough’s Full Council.

The charging regime at the car park changed last month from the first three hours of parking being free to just the first two hours, with a charge of £1.80 now imposed on the third hour.

“The council’s new charges are adversely affecting the users of the Leisure Centre and the Pool in the Park, and those making the most of Woking Park itself,” Mr Lord said.

“Woking Borough Council should not be putting up barriers to health and wellbeing activity by reducing free parking by a third.

“There are many great activities and schemes at the centre, keeping a broad range of Woking residents both physically and mentally well.

“This reduction in free parking detracts from that experience, not allowing for social time after sessions, as well as making it difficult or impossible for many people to engage in more than one activity on the same visit.

“Parking remains free at the Eastwood Leisure Centre in Sheerwater as well as at leisure centres in Guildford, Camberley and Egham, so introducing these increased charges at Woking Park is an unnecessary and a very unhappy anomaly.

“Having been contacted by many regular users of the Leisure Centre and Pool in the Park, I have launched this official petition to reverse the charges.”

However, Mr Lord’s decision to start a petition on the matter drew a stinging reply from the council’s ruling Liberal Democrats, who instituted the new parking regime as a part of its response to the borough’s soaring debt crisis.

It is “immensely disappointing that Jonathan Lord has started a petition” said their official reply. “Mr Lord is fully aware of the council’s dire financial situation”.

The response, signed by a group of leading Lib Dems, contains multiple reproaches to the MP.

Once a petition reaches 400 signatures the petitioner, in this case Mr Lord, can present and speak to the petition at a meeting of Full Council.

The petition, which has been conducted on the Woking Borough Council website, has its signatures checked by an automated response asking the signatory to verify their email address. The system allows only one signature against one email address. Mr Lord opened the petition on 20 March, so has garnered the signatures in barely a week, a sign that the issue has hit a nerve locally.

The News & Mail understands that the petition will remain open for the present. However, Mr Lord set the petition to run until 20 March 2024, and until it is closed by him and formally submitted to Woking Borough Council, no date for a hearing can be determined.

When the petition is presented to council, any councillor can propose a motion suggesting a formal response to the petition. It would then be debated with all councillors able to vote on the motion.

It is the News & Mail’s understanding that July is likely to be the earliest date for the petition to be presented.

To sign the petition, visit www.woking.gov.uk, and use the consultation and engagement tab to access petitions, from where Mr Lord’s petition can be viewed.