A TRIAL is underway at Yorkshire Water's reservoirs at Thruscross, Swinsty and Fewston following the introduction of car park charging -although it is not clear for how long.

From late last month, visitors to the popular sites have had to pay £1 for an hour, £3 for six hours, and £5 for all day parking. There is free parking for holders of blue badges and also an annual £30 pass covering all three reservoirs off the A59 between Skipton and Harrogate.

Yorkshire Water says the charging will fund vital improvements and help pay for its first ever ranger team, which will carry out countryside management and biodiversity projects at the sites which are hugely popular with walkers.

It also hopes that ANPR cameras fitted in the car parks will deter antisocial behaviour and fly tipping, making the areas safer and more enjoyable for all to visit.

Yorkshire Water told the Craven Herald that the trial would last for a year, but on its website, the company says it will last for 18 months, from January 22. 

One regular visitor to all three sites said she was 'heartbroken' at the decision to start charging and had submitted objections to the consultation ahead of charging being brought in by the company.

Since then, the person, who has asked not to be named, but is from Otley, said they had asked Yorkshire Water how it would judge if the trial had been a success or not and was told it expected there to be a decrease in fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour.

"I asked how many incidents of fly-tipping, and anti social behaviour there had been over the past year, to have something to compare them to after the 18 months, and was told it was unable to share the data, it was not something it would share publicly, and that it would be reviewed during the trial.

"I would like to hold them to account for the 'trial period' they refer to, and their criteria, as none of it stands up to much scrutiny. I believe they do keep a log of incidents so I'm not sure why that should be secret information.

"If it is secret how will we know if it's improved, how will the reservoirs be safer than they already are given nothing happens there, and will they be more enjoyable to visit. So far the introduction of cameras and charges has made them less enjoyable for me, and is possibly the only anti-social behaviour I've witnessed there.My fear is that after 18 months nobody will bother to hold them to account on the criteria they've used to justify parking charges."

A Yorkshire Water spokesperson said: “Our reservoirs are important not only to Yorkshire Water but to our local communities and visitors alike.

“We looked thoroughly into how people use our sites, and we believe a small parking fee and increased security will help to dissuade anti-social behaviour, such as fly-tipping, at our sites but also have a long-term positive impact in terms of the projects we can deliver in the future.

“We want to encourage our blue badge visitors to register and receive a permit. If you don’t have a permit, you will have to pay. It’s easy to apply and you can do so via our dedicated website.

“We’ve also collaborated with local authorities and stakeholders to ensure our visitors are aware of these changes prior to the charges going live, and we’re making it as easy as possible for people to pay, whether it’s via card payment on site, the Ring Go app or even by telephone.”

The closed section of the permissive footpath at Thruscross Reservoir, from the entrance opposite the car park to the junction with Coarse Lane,  remains closed. Yorkshire Water says it will re-open once  reinstatement work is carried out. 

Have you seen any fly-tipping or anti-social behaviour at the reservoir sites? Do you think charging is a good idea? Let us know either by commenting on this story, or by emailing: news@cravenherald.co.uk