Citing the results of a six-week local consultation on funding plans for the Forest – the inspiration for Winnie the Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood – Ms Ghani pointed out that 70 per cent of respondents had agreed that more funding solutions were needed to support the future of the Forest.
The Times revealed last week how Ashdown Forest, where AA Milne based his tales and the site of the original Pooh-sticks bridge that was immortalised in his work, will be now charging visitors to park and comes after the beauty spot had its funding cut last year by East Sussex County Council.
“It is vital for the future and health of the Ashdown Forest that its funding is sustainable,” said Ms Ghani.
She continued: “While parking charges will not be the only source of funding, they will be vital for improving car park spaces, access tracks and litter collection, enhancing visitor experience.
“Looking after the Forest and ensuring we maintain a healthy, clean and vibrant heathland is of critical importance.”
However, the move has not gone down well on social media channels.
Commentors on the Facebook page ‘Ashdown Forest’ said they were ‘disgusted’ at the move.
“Will go elsewhere there’s plenty of other places,” was one reported reaction.
“This is disgusting!!!” said another.
“I’ve lived here most of my life and now I have to pay to walk in my own area? Locals should be given permits if this is the case,” said another.
The charges proposed during the consultation add up to £2 an hour, £2.50 for two hours, £4 for four hours, £6 for the whole day or £80 for an annual pass.
The Forest plans to carry out a tender process for a parking system for its 47 car parks and have suggested that parking charges could begin this summer.
Chief Executive James Adler said: “As soon as possible we will use the funding that visitors provide to repair the car parks most in need.
“We will build a rolling programme of repairs both to the car parks but also the access tracks for walkers and horse riders.
“We hope the changes will make the Forest more accessible. Regular visitors will be able to purchase an annual pass and know that their contribution is preserving the place they enjoy for future generations.
“Ashdown Forest is an absolutely stunning and unique area, loved by many people. It is also the home of Winnie-the-Pooh.
“We have been explaining that the Forest has been struggling financially even though we welcome more than 1.4 million people every year. Our visitors will now be contributing to the Forest and helping to keep this wonderful place thriving.”