Race against the clock to find alternative parking during Waitrose refurbishment

TIME is running out in the search to find alternative parking while Waitrose is refurbished – with mayor Keith Eden admitting a resolution should have been found “two or three years ago”.

Last week Saffron Walden Town Council threw out the idea of temporarily expanding the Common car park after legal advice suggested it would be “unlawful”.

Attention has now turned to the possibility of expanding Catons Lane car park between January and June next year, while other alternatives are being looked at.

“We are discussing a number of other options and should be able to make an announcement within the next 10 days,” Cllr Eden told the Reporter. “Some are possibilities and others are not but we are examining them all to see if we can get temporary car park space for the first half of next year.”

He added: “Catons Lane and the land in front of the football stadium is one being scouted. If you tarmaced that and tidied it up a bit you could park about 25 cars down there.”

Cllr Eden was asked how long it might be before a final decision is taken on a solution to the temporary loss of 294 spaces while Waitrose’s Fairycroft Road car park is spruced up.

He replied: “There isn’t a lot of time left to get something in place – it’s only 16 weeks before the refurbishment begins. We are doing what we should have done two or three years ago.”

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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.

Space for extra toilets and a café was included in the multi-million pound design, while the Fairycroft Road car park will be revamped.

As exclusively revealed by the Reporter earlier this month, one concept being discussed was the potential of expanding the Common car park from 109 spaces to 259.

Audley End estate, which had originally donated the Common land to the town council, gave consent for the car park to be extended on a temporary basis.

But after seeking legal advice it was revealed the town council, its individual members and even car park users could all be held liable for breaching The Commons Act 1876, The Inclosure [Corr] Act 1857 and The Criminal Damage Act 1971, if the idea had become a reality.

At an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday of last week, Cllr David Watson told councillors: “I have every sympathy for the position of Waitrose and other business owners [who could be affected by the temporary closure of Fairycroft car park].

“We as a town council can look at solutions to the problem but what has been suggested [expanding the Common car park] cannot be supported. We are not above the law.

“The town council is unable to use the Common as a temporary car park because it would be unlawful to do so. Instead we will continue to look for alternatives going forward.”