THE government has approved plans to charge for parking at Richmond and Bushy parks.

The move was inevitable, after the House of Lords voted last week against a proposal to throw out the charges requested by the Royal Parks agency. It will now be able to impose charges on drivers of up to £2 per visit.

The only crumb of comfort for opponents is the government's commitment to review the situation in 18 months.

Former Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park, Baroness Jenny Tonge, had proposed last week's socalled 'fatal motion' as a last ditch effort which could have seen the charges plan scrapped.

But Conservative peers refused to support her, instead opting to call on the government to rethink its decision to allow fees.

The two parties had claimed they wanted to work together to block the charges, but in the run-up to the debate came to blows over which parliamentary process would be most effective.

Richmond Park MP Susan Kramer (Lib Dem) supported the idea of the fatal motion - a procedural instrument which can only kill off a bill or let it stand but cannot amend it - which she said was the only way to put a stop to the charges.

The process has been successfully used only three times - the last in 1974.

Conservative parliamentary candidate Zac Goldsmith said he had spoken to members of the House of Lords, who told him the motion would not be backed as the Royal Parks' proposals contained 'non-controversial' elements, and they did not want to be seen to be 'micro-managing' the parks.

He said he was happy with the outcome, despite being an opponent of the charges, because it had been a political stunt.

"It is a great result," he said. "The very best that was possible, and it will be difficult for the Government to ignore the Tory peers' move. We all know that Kramer's idea could never have worked. It was a gesture designed to fail so that her party could score political points."

Mr Goldsmith claimed a Conservative government would scrap the charges.

Ms Kramer said: "I am deeply saddened that our bid to stop these charges once and for all has failed. I know local people will join me in sadness at the loss of our chance to hold the government to account and stop these charges in their tracks.

She added: "I have been proud to campaign side-by-side with so many local people to stop these charges, and up until this point, on a cross-party basis. I want to assure local people that I will continue to fight to make sure their voices are heard and the plans are stopped."

Thousands of people put their name to petitions against the plans, which were announced last year, and about 1,000 joined in a protest rally against them in January.

The fatal motion was voted down by 71 to 48 votes.

The Conservative motion was passed by 136 votes to 71.