An MP has labelled proposals to introduce car parking charges at a popular North East park as ‘madness.’

Matt Vickers, MP for Stockton South, has said potential charges will deter people from visiting Preston Park which has today (February 12) seen work begin on an extension to its museum and grounds.

Stockton Borough Council have said charges at the park are being considered as part of the capital works programme which is due to be completed in 2025 – while Councillor Steve Nelson added any potential charges would be “reasonable” and “affordable.”

MP for Stockton North, Alex Cunningham, said the council have been forced to seek alternative forms of revenue due to funding cuts - before calling on Mr Vickers to seek a better deal for the town.

This comes after work began today (January 12) on an extension of Preston Hall - which is set to be completed in 2025.

Mr Vickers said: "Preston Park is a fantastic place for local residents as well as visitors and we are lucky to have it on our doorstep. The park has an incredible history and, thanks to this government funding, an incredible future.

“While I’m sure we are all keen to see the visiting nationally significant displays that will feature in the upgraded exhibition space, I think many residents are keen to see what lies ahead for many other parts of the park.

“Many residents are also concerned about our Labour Council's proposals to introduce car parking charges at the park - this is madness as it will put people off visiting and is likely to displace parking into residential streets nearby.

“An issue which already causes misery and creates an often dangerous hazard in the narrow local streets. Local Conservative councillors and I will continue to do everything we can to oppose this."

He added that he has spoken with council officers regarding the need to deliver plans for new toilet facilities and a café, upgrades to play equipment, a railway heritage tribute, and a solution for the park’s aviary.

Mr Cunningham, responding to Mr Vickers' criticism, said SBC’s budget has been negatively affected by the Conservative government over the course of 14 years.

He also criticised the government’s “solution” which he said was to hike council tax.

Most read:

Grab our digital subscription for £5 for 5 months and stay connected with local happenings.​ Click here.

He said: “I know it will have been a difficult decision for the council to introduce any charges but having had their funding cut by 50% over the last 14 years by successive Tory governments, they need to find revenue to help pay for services like those in the park

“Instead of carping on at the Council Matt Vickers should be banging on the door of Michael Gove and demanding a better deal for Stockton which got an increase in grant of just over 2% this year. And the government's solution - they've told the council to hike council tax.”

Councillor Steve Nelson said: “The potential introduction of car parking charges at Preston Park is being considered as part of the capital works programme which is due to be completed in 2025.

"If we were to introduce any charges, they would be at a reasonable, affordable rate with an option of discounts for regular visitors.”