A MASS trespass protest is being held at Cirencester Park this weekend as controversial entry passes take effect. 

At present the Grade 1 listed park owned by the Bathurst Estate is free to enter and is hugely popular with families, joggers and dog-walkers.

But on Friday, March 15 electric gates will be activated on the four main entry points meaning visitors will need to buy passes, which vary in prices, to access the grounds.

While the estate team says the move is needed to help pay for the upkeep of the park, the announcement has sparked widespread outrage which has led to plans for a mass trespass this Sunday.

Organisers at campaign group Right to Roam, which describes itself as an organisation which fights for 'free and fair' access to land across the UK, are expecting hundreds to gather for the 'no pay protest'.

Supporters are planning to meet at 11am at the main entrance point at Cecily Hill to enter the grounds regardless of the new restrictions for what is described as a 'peaceful jamboree'.

Cotswold Journal: Cecily Hill entrance to Cirencester ParkCecily Hill entrance to Cirencester Park (Image: Camilla Foster)

Right to Roam says hundreds of people have signed up via Eventbrite. 

The event page states: "Join Right to Roam for a peaceful jamboree on the weekend the charges are introduced, as we contest the pay walling of the park and celebrate hundreds of years of community heritage.

"We’ll hear from locals, historians and Right to Roam campaigners and resurrect some of the park’s great customs in a Fayre For All."

Organiser Jon Moses from Right to Roam said: "It'll be a no pay protest, so the intention is to peacefully enter the park without accepting the new charges, just as people have done for hundreds of years."

A sold-out public meeting about the event will take place in Cirencester's Ashcroft Church on Wednesday, March 13.

Cirencester resident David Watts regularly uses the park for exercise and will be joining protesters on Sunday.

Cotswold Journal: Cirencester ParkCirencester Park (Image: Camilla Foster)

He said: “Along with many other residents, I am upset and disappointed about the new access restrictions of Cirencester Park. 

"For many of us, Cecily Hill is not just an entrance to the park but a gateway to thousands of acres of English countryside which have been free to roam for centuries. 

"Whilst locals can obtain a residential pass for £10 it feels like an infringement on our freedoms - the countryside should be free for everyone." 

Passes are required to enter the park at the Cecily Hill, Windsor Walk, Barton Lane and Cirencester Park Caravan & Motorhome Club entrance points.

The Bathurst Estate said paid passes are needed to ensure the park 'stays clean and enjoyable for visitors' while also contributing towards conservation work such as the Broad Avenue restoration project.

Cotswold Journal: Sign in Cirencester Park explaining the Broad Avenue restoration projectSign in Cirencester Park explaining the Broad Avenue restoration project (Image: Camilla Foster)

Commenting on the protest, a spokesperson for the Bathurst Estate said: "We are aware of the Right to Roam planned activity in Cirencester Park on Sunday.

"The estate’s primary concern is to ensure the safety of all park users throughout the day, including members of the public and staff and to ensure that wildlife and conservation areas are not harmed.

"Spring is a sensitive time for wildlife in the park and we ask that park users are considerate of the nesting birds, that dogs are kept on leads where requested and that fenced off areas are respected.

"The estate has been in touch with the organisers of Sunday’s event and Gloucestershire police, with a view that any intended activity is conducted with consideration for the wildlife and delicate areas of the park and the visiting public."

Cotswold Journal: Example of what the community and annual passes will look like Example of what the community and annual passes will look like (Image: The Bathurst Estate)

Under the new entry rules, residents in the Cirencester area will need to pay £10 deposit for a community pass which will available for individuals and households in the following postcode areas - GL7 0, GL7 1, GL7 2, GL7 5, GL7 6 and GL7 7.

Those living outside of this area will need to pay £30 for an individual annual pass or £50 for a household pass.

Day passes will also be available for tourists, costing £4 for adults and £2 for children. 

Passes are available at bathurstestate.co.uk