After discovering that Merlin Entertainments had begun an “almost half price” sale on its passes today, a few of our very eagle eyed members spotted rather disturbing alterations to the small print.

Merlin has added a few new conditions it seems, with one around visits to the Legoland theme park in August, stipulating that guests with Standard Annual Passes may only now visit after 2pm during August.

Also, a condition has been added that Merlin Blackpool attractions may not be visited with the Standard Annual Pass from 22nd October to 30th October, signalling that these newly acquired attractions will indeed become part of the Merlin Annual Pass lineup.

However, the shocking news came last in the terms and conditions that “Attraction parking fees are not included.“, putting an end to a long welcomed benefit of the Tussauds and now Merlin Annual Pass.

With Legoland, Chessington World of Adventures and THORPE PARK now having or in the process of installing car park barriers to charge for parking, it’s looking that a visit to a theme park may be costing a lot more than most Annual Pass holders bargained for, with more money set to line the pockets of the Merlin Entertainments Group.

Merlin have yet to release an official statement around the terms and conditions changes, and there is also no word on whether existing passes will have their terms honoured until the expiry of the passes, or if the changes will apply to both Standard and Premium Annual Passes.

With the introduction of the “Premium” Annual Pass however last year in an effort to offer an unrestricted pass with a much higher cost, it seems extremely unlikely that these conditions would be applied to the pass – perhaps even in an effort to try and get existing Standard pass holders to upgrade to a Premium pass, particularly as the Standard pass benefits are slowly eroded.

Needless to say, there has been a great outrage about the introduction of parking charges for Annual Pass holders on both our forums and the official Facebook page of Merlin Annual Pass, with many users calling for a petition to be set up for the changes, and even many existing pass holders threatening to not renew in the new year.

We’ll continue to follow this news and bring you the latest as and when it happens.

Click here for the discussion on our forums