West Cornwall MP Derek Thomas has taken part in talks aimed at resolving a dispute over the introduction of parking charges at the Levant Mine car park at Pendeen.
About a dozen campaigners met with the local MP at Levant Mine last week to discuss the conduct of the National Trust, and its imposition of the controversial parking charges.
Members of the ‘Pay and Display at Levant Mine – No Thanks’ Facebook group say that the recent introduction of a parking meter at the car park – which has since been vandalised – is insensitive as it is the location of the 1919 man engine disaster when 31 miners were killed.
According to the group, “this tragedy had a profound impact on the local community and relatives of the victims still come by car to this site to remember and pay their respects.
“In view of its poignant history we are requesting the National Trust to grant this site a car park charge exemption and remove the pay and display meter. Also to abandon any plans to enlarge the present car park area – just leave it alone.”
A spokeswoman for the National Trust has said that neither family members of those killed in the disaster nor Trust members have to pay the parking charges and that any funds raised from parking will go towards preserving the area’s unique heritage.
Mr Thomas has met with members of the group and plans to meet with Ian Marsh, West Cornwall manager for the National Trust, to see if there is a way forward.
“I accept that the National Trust need to raise money,” said Mr Thomas.
“However, there are a number of concerns that are not being carefully considered in my view. Firstly, the site is a place that, for many, serves as a reminder of the price paid by those who worked our mines.
“In addition, the meter itself and adjacent signs are an eyesore in an area of outstanding natural beauty and local people, who wish to walk along the coastline, have no choice but to pay the fee if they want to park or navigate on foot an uneven, poorly maintained access road.”
A spokesperson for the protest group, Craig Weatherhill said after the meeting,
“It was clear that Mr Thomas is, himself, totally unimpressed with NT’s conduct, and is supportive of our campaign, as long as it continues to run on a peaceful, but forceful, basis.
Most importantly, he has undertaken to gather as many of his parliamentary colleagues as possible to support Lord Chris Patten’s recent call in the House of Lords, for an independent Inquiry into the autocratic conduct of the NT, its apparent unaccountablity, and its total lack of regulation. He was told that this should also question the suitability of Dame Helen Ghosh to head the NT, given her previous poor record at DEFRA, which was also recently highlighted in a damning Press report.
As Lord Patten is himself a Tory, we are hopeful that Mr Thomas is sincere in this undertaking. From my viewpoint, this is the way it should go, as this call for an Inquiry has come from within the highest offices in the land”
The protest group says they will now widen their campaign to include all the NT car parks in the ‘Tin Coast’ area:
“The Trust – who must have been paid many thousands of pounds by the Poldark Production Company as well as having many lucrative business ventures (holiday homes, hotels, gift shops etc) – must surely be in a position to subsidise any maintenance/conservation works needed for this iconic stretch of coastline that is a cornerstone of Cornish cultural heritage.
It is the cumulative effect of all these recent additions – that we consider are, in general, totally unnecessary – that is so damaging to the atmosphere of this World Heritage Site that is also supposed to be an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
It should be noted that many locals park to walk and/or take their dogs along the coast path and will now have to pay for this privilege. We consider that environmentally friendly donation boxes should be installed at the ‘hub’ sites so that parking is voluntary rather than the current enforced payment.
We campaign to:
• re-impose free parking along the Tin Coast sites
• remove all pay and display machines
• reposition any signs so as to blend into the landscape
• abandon any plans to enlarge the car park area at Levant.
In other words return the Tin Coast to how it was before the present National Trust fiasco and then just leave it alone”