Parking top of the agenda as Saffron Walden Waitrose store gears up for expansion

TRADERS in Saffron Walden are teaming up in a mission to solve the potential parking crisis created by Waitrose’s expansion next January.

Last week the Reporter exclusively revealed how the supermarket giant was preparing to start work on a nine-month extension of its Hill Street store, along with a revamp of its car park, at the beginning of 2014.

Attention has now turned towards catering for the temporary loss of 294 parking spaces at Waitrose, with talk of a possible 150-space expansion of the Common car park and better utilisation of Swan Meadow top of the agenda.

The new Saffron Walden town team, made up of businesses and members of both Uttlesford District Council (UDC) and Saffron Walden Town Council, are looking into ways of creating more parking for shoppers while the Waitrose car park is closed for six months.

Cllr Howard Rolfe, cabinet member for communities and partnerships at UDC, who is on the town team, told the Reporter: “We have had meetings to discuss possible alternatives to cover the temporary loss of car parking spaces at Waitrose.

“There has been discussion about putting in a temporary surface on the Common to extend the Common car park

“However, I must stress this would only be a temporary solution to a temporary problem.

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“People must not think we are going to damage their Common in any way.

“The costs associated with anything like this will be borne by Waitrose and would not come out of the public purse.”

He added: “We know Swan Meadow car park is not very well utilised at the time of the year Waitrose’s revamp is taking place.

“We will be looking into better signage, while there are also facilities at the district council and Fairycroft House, which we are talking to Essex County Council about.”

Asked whether Waitrose’s expansion would benefit other businesses in the town, Cllr Rolfe replied: “No one on the town team objects to the expansion and it’s clear that a bigger Waitrose will bring more people into the centre of Saffron Walden.

“Waitrose car park is a pretty key car park in the centre of Saffron Walden, not just for the supermarket, but other retailers, too.”

The supermarket giant is also planning to run a shuttle bus service to and from Swan Meadow, although the finer details such as where shopping will be stored are still being worked out.

Cllr Rolfe hinted there may be a separate bus with facilities to refrigerate certain foods which will transport the shopping.

The multi-million pound expansion, which will see the store’s floor space increased by roughly the size of five badminton courts, is expected to create about 15 new jobs.