A COMMITTED volunteer has resigned after ten years of leading walks in Brighton as his requests for a parking permit at a popular park were repeatedly rejected.

Jim Mann has been a volunteer guide with the council's Healthwalk scheme for the past decade and has organised weekly sessions at Stanmer Park during this time.

The 70-year-old said he could "praise the Healthwalk scheme forever" - but reluctantly handed in his resignation on Thursday after Brighton and Hove City Council refused to grant him a parking permit.

Charges were introduced at the park earlier this month and Jim currently has to pay for parking for his weekly walk there and then apply for it to be reimbursed.

The Argus: Jim MannJim Mann

Jim, who lives in Southwick, said he feels "let down" by the council.

He said: "Myself and other Healthwalk leaders religiously go out in all weathers and we are giving our time for free.

"We get back in after a five mile walk and now have to go through this rigmarole of scanning in tickets - all for one square of paper which I could put in my windscreen to say 'I'm a Healthwalk leader and I'm exempt'.

"I thought it would be a straight-forward thing to just get a permit without all this messing about, as I'm there on council business.

"We feel aggrieved as we thought the council would help, but we just keep hitting a brick wall."

Jim said he was angered further when he noticed that some vehicles at Stanmer Park appeared to have parking permits.

He said: "After trying to get this resolved for a month and always being met with an impasse - then we see blue and yellow permits on vehicles at the park.

"We were trying to be as helpful as we could and still can't understand where the problem lies - especially as we know some permits have been granted, possibly to council workers.

The Argus: Jim said his woodland Healthwalks through Stanmer Park are popular all year round. Photo: Claire PulmanJim said his woodland Healthwalks through Stanmer Park are popular all year round. Photo: Claire Pulman

"Me and my Healthwalk leader buddy were really upset that the council are treating us quite badly."

The Healthwalk scheme welcomes people of all ages and abilities to take part in walking as a way to boost physical and mental health and wellbeing.

Coordinated by Ramblers Wellbeing Walks and the city council, and run by about 80 volunteers, there are various walks of different lengths which groups can join regularly.

Jim said he has been "very committed from the beginning", and organises Christmas social events and other walks outside Brighton too.

He said: "It's such a good scheme as it's there to cater for everyone.

"A lot of people who do the walks are a similar age to me and it doesn't half keep us fit.

"There's the social side to it too - you get to know people really well.

The Argus: Photo taken at Stanmer Park by Tyrone CampbellPhoto taken at Stanmer Park by Tyrone Campbell

"But it's a matter of principle. I've been put in a difficult position."

A council spokesman said: “There are many volunteers delivering highly valued services and assistance to people across the city.

“The introduction of parking charges to Stanmer has meant that some of these volunteers are incurring charges to park.

“For people directly delivering services with us such as Healthwalk leaders we can offer a refund, or preferably – as lockdown eases further – alternative travel options such as free bus tickets.

“The range and depth of voluntary services and activities at Stanmer is large.

“We will continue to review how we support these without limiting space for other people visiting the park.

"The changes at the park follow an investment of more than £6 million as part of the Stanmer Park restoration project. This involves the council, Plumpton College, the National Lottery and the South Downs National Park Authority.”