Poll: Can you help solve Saffron Walden’s parking problem?

From left, Charlie Southgate, Louis Cooke, Finn Potter, Jake Slade and Elliot Poublan have started a

From left, Charlie Southgate, Louis Cooke, Finn Potter, Jake Slade and Elliot Poublan have started a petition to save their basketball court. - Credit: Archant

WHERE would you like to see a car park built in Saffron Walden?

The debate about where to find a temporary facility to cater for the loss of almost 300 spaces at Waitrose’s car park took another twist last week.

With a rapidly expanding community and no new car park built since Swan Meadow in the 90s, mayor Keith Eden suggested the possibility of a more permanent solution should be looked at.

Clerk Simon Lloyd has completed a feasibility study looking at options for a temporary car park as Saffron Walden Town Council faces a race against the clock to get something in place by January.

The Fairycroft car park at Waitrose is to be refurbished alongside the Hill Street store and will be out of use until June 2014.

A proposal for a temporary surface in Catons Lane, which would require the temporary loss at least of the play area and basketball court, had looked like the frontrunner.

However, at an extraordinary meeting tonight (Thursday), the Reporter understands councillors will be recommended to refuse it on the grounds of cost. This is estimated to be around £200,000.

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This follows a decision to throw out the original idea of extending the Common car park over fears about the threat of possible legal action.

Councillors are also under pressure to reject the Catons Lane proposal from nearby residents and a group of basketball players who go to Saffron Walden County High School.

Year 10 students Finn Potter, Jake Slade, Louis Cooke, Elliot Poublan and Charlie Southgate have launched a petition to save the court, collecting 250 signatures in two days.

The 14-year-olds also started a Facebook group which has attracted 160 members and counting.

Jake said: “Considering how well the school has done in recent basketball competitions it would be ridiculous to take this facility away from us – especially when there is so much talk about trying to encourage youth sport.”

Finn said: “There are at least 20 of us down there every other night. The play area is extremely well used, too.”

Cllr Eden poured cold water on the suggestion either the play area or basketball court would be permanently removed to pave the way for a car park.

But he did not rule out a temporary loss of the facilities, indicating that the concept was for them to be moved further back towards Bridge End Garden.

Regardless, it appears the more likely – and far cheaper – solution of using the area in front of Saffron Walden Town Football Club’s Catons Lane ground is now the most favourable option.

This would see the town council tarmac the area, large enough for about 30 car park spaces, open it to the public for the six-month period, and run it until the takings cover the financial cost of the tarmacing. It would then be handed back to the club.

However, the newly-formed town team – made up of local traders and councillors – are worried about the impact less car parking provision will have on business. A sub-commitee has been formed to focus solely on addressing the problem.

Cllr Eden said if Reporter readers had ideas about how to solve the car parking crisis they should get in touch with the town council.

“The more people talk about the issue of car parking the greater their understanding will be of the problems faced by the town council,” he said.

“There are two sides to every story. There has been opposition from the basketball players, who I sympathise with, but it’s important we look at every option for the good of the town and businesses.”

Options talked about in the past as possible sites for a new permanent car park include:

• Saffron Walden fire station

• Royal Mail’s sorting office

• An area of land behind Barclays Bank and Saffron Building Society

• A multi-million pound underground car park on the Common

• A park-and-ride scheme from the outskirts of town

The Reporter is running a poll to get feedback about what YOU think is the best approach to the car parking crisis. Vote for your favoured option or e-mail your own ideas to editor@saffronwalden-reporter.co.uk