The Duke of Buccleuch has announced that, from later this month, the gates to the park will be shut overnight from 7pm to 7am with access restricted to those who have paid the annual fee for a pass – £10 for adults, £20 for dog-walkers and £20 for a family.
The estate said the move was “to improve safety and security” after a spate of antisocial behaviour and petty vandalism.
But critics said closing the gates would do nothing to prevent trouble because people could climb over the walls.
The new access arrangements come as the park prepares to open its multi-million pound redevelopment, including a new adventure playground together with cafés, restaurants and shops.
The estate said from March 21 the park’s main gates would close to vehicles from 7pm to 7am, but pedestrian users would still be able to gain access at all hours by purchasing an annual pass card.
Estate manager Ed Morris said: “This is designed to improve safety and security within the park for all users.
“The annual ‘Friends of Dalkeith Country Park’ pass card will enable card holders to enter the park at any time via a swipe card reader.”
He said the main pedestrian access to the park would be through the Town Gate and a card reader as well as CCTV and intercom would be operational from March 21. If someone needs access after the gates were shut but did not have a card, they can contact security.
The duke has faced criticism before over the £1 charge he levies on visitors entering the park without a pass, but the charge will continue under the new arrangements.
Dalkeith Labour councillor Margot Russell said: “We’re always hearing about the health of the nation and the benefits of green open spaces. Dalkeith Country Park is a wonderful place to visit, but people shouldn’t have to pay to go there.
“It’s the mentality that really annoys me – everyone has got to pay something. He’s one of the biggest landowners in the country.”
She said she knew there had been incidents of antisocial behaviour, but said the gates would not help.
“Closing the gates won’t stop it,” she said. “The kids can climb over the wall. And charging won’t make any difference either because there are so many openings into the park.”
The estate said asking people to pay a nominal entrance fee meant the park complied with the Land Reform Act 2003 which allows the park to close its gates only if there was a charge for access.
“It added that the “small amount of revenue” from the £1 charge was re-invested in the upkeep of the park, from the Ranger service to general maintenance.