Hunt for car parking spaces is on as Waitrose reveals date for Saffron Walden store expansion

WAITROSE is to expand its store from the beginning of next year – with a number of ideas being discussed about how to cope with the temporary closure of its car park.

The Hill Street store is to run a shuttle bus service from Swan Meadow car park during the estimated six month-period it will take to revamp its own parking facilities. It is understood the shop extension is likely to start in January 2014 and will take around nine months to complete.

Discussions have begun to find an additional solution to the problem of making up for the loss of 294 parking spaces at Waitrose, including a possible 150-space extension of the Common car park which sparked a response of “over my dead body” from Saffron Walden town councillor Mike Hibbs. The current capacity is 109 short stay spaces.

“I don’t think the Common should have cars parked on it full stop. It is sacrosanct,” Cllr Hibbs told the Reporter. “To more than double the size of the Common car park would be a great mistake. I have no doubt we will need to provide additional car parking but there are other possibilities.”

He added: “I have long wanted to see some form of park & ride, not in the sense of Cambridge city, but one with the ability for people to park in Swan Meadow and then catch a bus to the town centre.

“That is similar to what Waitrose is proposing to run on a temporary basis and I think people should be encouraged to use it.”

In April 2011, Waitrose was granted permission to increase its floor space by 528sqm, roughly the size of five badminton courts, by replacing parts of the existing car park.

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Space for extra toilets and a café was included in the multi-million pound design.

Branch manager Malcolm Domb said: “We’re looking forward to improving the Waitrose shop and car park in 2014 and are currently working with the council on our proposed programme’s details and timings.”

Saffron Walden Town Council is in the early stages of looking into possibilities for temporary car parking spaces alongside the district council.

Cllr Susan Barker, cabinet member with responsibility for parking, also a member of the North Essex Parking Partnership, said the discussions were ongoing.

“Expanding the Common car park by about 150 spaces is the maximum being looked at but the Common itself is the responsibility of the town council. I’m optimistic the council will see sense in allowing the temporary increase in car parking there,” she said.

“A number of issues are being considered, including the worry about shopping trolleys being left around town because you can’t get one on a shuttle bus and you’re not going to walk back to Waitrose with it from the Common car park, so it is something we are very aware of.”