Multi-storey parking plan pitched by club

Catons Lane

Catons Lane - Credit: Archant

Building a multi-storey car park underneath the pitch at Saffron Walden Town Football Club is set to be explored as councillors seek a long-term solution to the town’s parking problem.

The vision was due to be discussed at a meeting last Thursday as Uttlesford District Council (UDC) looks to come up with a way of dealing with both future demands and the short-term loss of car parking spaces because of the planned Waitrose expansion.

However, it had to be cancelled at the last minute and a new date for it is yet to be set.

Last year, supermarket giant Waitrose put a 12-month hold on its plan to close Fairycroft car park while the store undergoes a renovation.

It is expected to go ahead from January 1 but the reconfiguration of the car park means 294 spaces will be lost for six months.

No solution has yet been found to make up for the impact of this, although the football club concept has received rave reviews from a number of councillors approached by the Reporter.

District and town councillor, Doug Perry, said: “I think it’s a brilliant idea. It’s something I’d never considered before.

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“We’ve looked at going up two to three storeys at Catons Lane or Swan Meadow but that would detract from the ambience and character of the area, whereas an underground car park wouldn’t do that.”

The idea, which is in its very early stages and by no means set in stone, is to dig up the club’s pitch at The Meadow, Catons Lane, put in an underground car park and then place a state-of-the-art 3G pitch on top of the concrete.

This would help alleviate the town’s parking problem and allow the club to realise its ambition of further revamping its ground.

Town councillor Mike Hibbs also welcomed the proposal, which is similar to an aborted plan 30 years ago to build an underground car park on the Common.

He said: “I think it’s certainly an idea that should be explored. We need innovative thinking and it should be a practical possibility providing it’s thought about carefully because it’s in a sensitive area.”

Saffron Walden Town vice-chairman, Ken Vincent, said the idea would be a “win-win” for everybody.

“If we were to take this further it would have to go before the whole committee for approval, but I think there would be a broad range of support for it,” he told the Reporter.

“It would help us improve our facilities and would not hamper the ground in any way.

“We want to install a 3G pitch as part of our masterplan anyway, so if we could get that from the council there’s a good chance it would help us secure £500,000 of lottery funding to build a new stand and a further 70 per cent of that figure from the Football Association for other improvements.”

The town council owns the lease on the football club’s ground and councillors are keen on the idea of managing such a facility if funding can be sought.

Leader of UDC, Cllr Howard Rolfe, said: “I never dismiss innovative ideas – I think it’s worth reviewing but we’ll have to look very carefully at the costs associated with it.”