Residents living close to Petworth House, who have already complained about its visitors using a controversial play park in front of their homes, had another reason to protest to the National Trust at the weekend.
Visitors to an art exhibition at the National Trust property on Sunday parked in the road before Hampers Common, said residents, to avoid paying the cost of parking at Petworth House.
Old Pond Mews resident Tracey Mawby, speaking on behalf of her neighbours, said: “Visitors to Petworth House parked on each side of the road that runs along Hampers Green common and even a medium-sized car struggled to pass.
“Heaven forbid there had been a serious fire down here as it would have been impossible for a fire engine to get through.”
She told the Observer: “We think the word is going out on social media that people can avoid paying for parking at the house by leaving their cars in this road.”
Tracey said her neighbour approached a man who parked his van on the pavement, making it impossible for disabled people in wheelchairs to use the pathway. “I heard the verbal abuse she got which was very aggressive.
“As residents, we should not have to put up with this and our safety is paramount and if emergency services are not able to get to us, this is very worrying. This road outside our house should not be used as an overflow carpark for National Trust visitors.”
She added: “My partner approached a family who were planning on parking their car in Old Pond Mews, which is private land, and was told in no uncertain terms to mind his own business and that they were not prepared to pay the extortionate charge for parking at the house.”
The residents have already complained about large groups of visitors to the house coming over the road to use the play park for picnics.
“We have had about 30 to 40 at a time crowding in bringing picnics and using the green as a toilet – if local children wanted to play there sometimes they would have a job to get in,” said Tracey.
Petworth town councillors have now asked the National Trust to stop encouraging visitors to use the Hampers Common play are as a picnic area.
Adam Hastie, General Manager for Petworth House and Park said: “We take these concerns very seriously and urge visitors to act responsibly when parking. We want people to enjoy Petworth and to do so safely and considerately.
“Petworth House and Park is popular with visitors on Sundays when the weather is fine.
“The overflow area of our main car park was unavailable on 17 February because of the recent wet weather. When this happens a member of our team asks visitors to use the Deer Park car park, or the two car parks in Petworth town, so they can explore the town too. We discourage visitors from parking at Hampers Green and never highlight the play equipment there.
“We are in regular dialogue with the Town Council and the Petworth Business Association about how best to manage visits to Petworth town and our role in supporting this. We’re keen to work more closely with our immediate neighbours to better understand their perspective.”