Petition calls for free parking in Saffron Walden

PUBLISHED: 09:23 18 August 2015 | UPDATED: 09:23 18 August 2015

Isabelle Antunes-Bridge at Swan Meadow car park

Isabelle Antunes-Bridge at Swan Meadow car park

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A petition to make all council car parks free in Saffron Walden has been started in a bid to save the town centre.

The petition, started by complimentary therapist Isabelle Antunes-Bridge, has already been signed by 80 people who see free parking as the best way to help independent retailers and retain business in the centre of town.

The petition says that independent shops in Saffron Walden are closing due to parking restrictions, which is decreasing the number of visitors to the town centre.

It says: “Independent retailers are struggling to make a profit against their very high overheads, so any decrease in footfall due to parking restrictions can be fatal to their business.

“If these retailers close and national / international chains take their place, then Saffron Walden will no longer have the same appeal and character.

“The best way to help independent retailers and the town centre thrive is to offer free parking in the town centre.”

Mrs Antunes-Bridge, 46, said: “I’m sure no one who lives in Saffron Walden would like to see Saffron Walden become a clone or dormitory town, so it’s important to act in order to save the independent shops we have in Walden.

“If the council does not offer free parking, at the very least, Swan Meadow car park should be made free and much better signposted, and the paying car parks should be “pay on exit”, not pay and display. Retailers lose a lot of custom due to people rushing back to their cars as their parking ticket validity is running out.”

A number of save the high street petitions around the country have started after high streets minister Marcus Jones suggested that small town centres should become ‘parking meter-free zones’ in an effort to save shops from closure.

Cardigan in west Wales saw a surge in visitors to the town centre after the four ticket machines were vandalised in June.

Shopkeepers in the Welsh town reported a 50 per cent increase in sales, with traders saying the situation has led to a level playing field where shoppers are much more relaxed.

Mayor Heather Asker said: “There has been a lot of discussion with groups of people from Uttlesford District Council and Residents for Uttlesford about what is the best way to go with this.

“In the grand scheme of things, free is fantastic but is free parking the answer?

“I would stick my neck out and say that I would like to see the town centre pedestrianised. If you look at the town centre on market days, when people are able to walk freely around the square at their own leisure, businesses and shops greatly benefit.”

A spokesman for Uttlesford District Council said: “The council understands that parking is vital to the vibrancy of our town and village centres and has always been responsive to concerns of shoppers and traders alike.

“The council has commissioned an independent report on car parking and will be considering its findings over the next few weeks with the Town Teams before any decisions are made.”

To sign the petition, visit www.you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/make-parking-free-in-saffron-walden-to-save-town-centre

Do you have views on the council parking situation in Saffron Walden? Email editor@saffronwalden-reporter.co.uk

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