Retailers continue fight for return to four hour parking at Saffron Walden Common

Jacqui Portway, who has led the campaign to reintroduce the four-hour parking limit at Saffron Walde

Jacqui Portway, who has led the campaign to reintroduce the four-hour parking limit at Saffron Walden Common - Credit: Archant

Retailers in Saffron Walden are still unhappy with the district council over parking times at the common car park, despite the announcement that motorists will get a free hour.

The four-hour maximum time limit was originally cut to two hours, before Uttlesford District Council (UDC) backed down on its decision in April following pressure from traders.

A three-hour limit was put forward as a compromise and UDC says although the changes are still going through a statutory process, it will not penalise drivers for staying an extra hour beyond the two hours they have paid for.

The offer, which applies to the purchase of a two-hour ticket only, came into effect from August 1 and will continue until the new order officially comes into force later this year, when normal charges will apply.

Motorists can still buy tickets for up to 30 minutes and up to one hour as normal.

However, market trader Jacqui Portway, who led the campaign and petition to re-introduce the four-hour tariff at the car park, says UDC should start listening.

She said: “We are carrying on with our campaign. If the council really wanted to put this town back on its feet, it would go back to four hours. “You only have to look what has happened to Beales [a store which announced closure last week] to see the effect this decision has had on the town. This land was given to the people of Saffron Walden and they should be listened to.”

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Mrs Portway, who was featured in a national market traders magazine last week highlighting the situation, added: “The whole thing about this free hour has been badly advertised. I spoke to one of the parking attendants last week and he didn’t have a clue about it. It’s all a smokescreen.”

Councillor Howard Rolfe, leader of UDC, said: “The two hour maximum stay at the common was introduced on advice from specialist consultants. It was designed to work alongside the other car parks as a package intended to make the most of the attractiveness and prosperity of the town.

“Recent data would suggest this approach is working. We have seen a considerable upturn in the usage of the car parks in Saffron Walden, including a significant increase at the common, in the past few months.

“The data also shows the number of people using the car parks is higher on Tuesdays than on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. This would go some way to dispelling some local myths about what are and are not perceived to be the ‘quiet days’ in town.

“However, we have also listened to the concerns of businesses, which is a group we trying to work with and support.”

A spokesman for UDC said temporary posters at the car park will be in place until the new order is made official later in the year.