Controversial plans to install pay and display machines at Bolberry Down and South Milton Sands have been met with local opposition.

The National Trust, who manage the Bolberry Down clifftop and the southern section of the beach at Thurlestone, currently have ‘honesty boxes’ with a suggested charge of £2 for car park users.

But now locals fear that the pay and display machines will see an slow increase in charges, pricing locals out of using the public spaces.

Two planning applications were submitted to South Hams District Council at the end of June, which are open for public comment until Friday, August 11.

The applications are for the “introduction of pay and display machines and related instruction signage” in the car parks.

The Bolberry Down application has so far received four letters of opposition, while the South Milton Sands has received no public comments.

Brenda Burnside from Kingsbridge objected on the grounds of “impact on amenity: the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty will be blighted by more man-made structures and spoil the natural beauty of the area”.

While Matthew Walker, who lives at Bolberry Down said this was a drive by the National Trust to “increase membership”.

He said: “Installing pay and display machines is part of their business model, usually employed at country houses run by them, to drive people to purchase membership with the incentive of free parking. This is part of a long term strategy to recoup exponential profit as they believe once they are members people are more inclined to visit other sites and spend more money.

“What they fail to acknowledge by transporting this tactic to land that, in most cases, was gifted to them to look after for the benefit of all, is that this move is imposing a class system on the coast and countryside divided, between those who can afford to pay and those who cannot.

“In most cases this will affect local pensioners and low income families many of whom cannot afford parking or membership fees. It is morally repugnant to put increased profit before people’s health and wellbeing and is just plain wrong!”

Joelle Williams from Malborough questioned whether many of the elderly visitors she knows would be able to continue enjoying Bolberry Down on a daily basis, thus affecting their “mental health and wellbeing”.

“I would also struggle to pay daily to park and enjoy the fresh air, as money with a growing family is tight and only necessity costs can be met,” Ms Williams said. “This would have a detrimental effect on both my health and that on my children’s who love the open space, bug hunting, blackberry picking and dolphin spotting.”

Kim Cooper, from Salcombe said pay and display machines “would disturb the natural beauty of the area” and “deter people from visiting”.

“I feel it unnecessary and I know myself and others feel very strongly against this,” Ms Cooper said. “We have already lost several local places in the area, it would appear the National Trust and local council have no interest in the views or traditions of the local area or its people.”

TR Lucocq, who live in Bolberry said: “The land was given by a Bolberry resident for the use and enjoyment of local people. Convention means this extends to all persons.

“The levying of a charge for the use and enjoyment of this land contravenes the will of the person making the gift.”

At their meeting on Tuesday, July 25, South Milton Parish Council voted to make “no comment” on the planning application for South Milton Sands.

But members of Malborough Parish Council are vehemently opposed to the plans for Bolberry Down.

Cllr Paul Pedrick described the plans as an “absolute outrage” at Malborough’s annual parish meeting in April, also attended by David Ford and Emma Reece from the National Trust.

Cllr Pedrick explained that the trust had been given the land back in the 1930s to “enable local access in perpetuity”.

He warned that visitors will take to “parking in the lanes, fields and gateways” causing obstructions. Cllr Pedrick said that the trust had proposed this once before, but that the idea was “chucked out” as it would not be workable.

Cllr John Sampson highlighted the parking chaos at East Soar over Easter, stating the trust’s “improvement” of the car park had led to a net loss in spaces. The visitors overflowed the site and farmers were unable to access their fields.

The National Trust was charged with “spending money to make things worse” with parking reduced from 50 spaces to 35. Voices from the floor at the meeting told the National Trust representatives “we told you so at the time, but you ignored us” while somebody else said: “Please listen to us now”.

A spokesman for the National Trust: “One of the key reasons the National Trust was formed was to encourage people to get outside to enjoy the outdoors and we’re proud and delighted that so many people enjoy spending time at Bolberry Down and South Milton Sands.

“However, these nationally significant outdoor spaces need constant and specialist care. This includes ongoing maintenance to the surrounding coast paths and ensuring greater visitor enjoyment by creating wider pathways for greater access. “Countryside management includes continuing work to encourage rich coastal habitats, which helps species like cirl bunting and the Mediterranean oil beetle to thrive. To help pay for this work we need to ask non-members who park to contribute towards the care of the site. National Trust members will continue to park for free, as their membership already helps support the work we do.  At both these places currently, non-members are asked to pay to park to contribute to upkeep of the area; the pay and display machine will be a different way to help us do this.

“As an independent charity we have a responsibility to protect what we look after for ever and for everyone, so we need to ensure we have the funds available to do so.”

The two applications are open for comments until Friday, August 11. They can be found by searching the SHDC planning website, using the reference 1880/17/FUL for the Bolberry Down application and 1882/17/ADV for South Milton Sands.