Saffron Walden town centre businesses voiced their concerns about proposed car park price hikes at an Uttlesford cabinet meeting.

Five representatives from town centre shops were allowed to speak for a maximum of three minutes, including Waitrose, Saffron Fish Co, St Elizabeth's charity shop and two board directors from BID (Business Improvement District) who both own and manage businesses in the town.

BID chair Shara Vickers said: "We understand that parking creates revenue for UDC, and we are willing to work together with UDC in finding a workable solution, but on reflection of the meeting, we and the businesses were very disappointed with the initial reactions of the councillors.

"It appeared that the decision on car park prices had already been agreed by councillors prior to the meeting.

"There was no more opportunity for further discussion or debate about the proposals and it was disappointing that some of our new suggestions and a willingness to work together on developing a workable solution was not acknowledged."

Prior to the meeting, the BID and businesses had presented the council with a petition objecting to the proposed price increases, which received more than 4,000 signatures.

However the petition was rejected because the council removed the names of signatories who do not reside within the district.

Saffron Walden Reporter: Matt Gurnett of Saffron Fish CoMatt Gurnett of Saffron Fish Co (Image: Newsquest)

Matt Gurnett, owner of Saffron Fish Co, said: "To have the petition rejected on the grounds that it had too many names from outside the district is ludicrous.

"Does it not prove to the council that not only are people against the rise but more importantly that people are willing to travel to shop in our town, something that a jump in car park prices will put an end to?

"The strong opinion from my customers is that this is far too much of a rise and doing away with free parking options is unacceptable."

Meanwhile Toni Gabell, manager of St Elizabeth's, explained the impact the price hikes would have on her shop's volunteers. 

She said: "Many of our volunteers are retired and travel into the town to work with us. This incurs using their own vehicle, fuel and paying for parking.

"These proposals seem excessive and this is a lot for someone who is already giving so much.


"I am fearful that this might be one step too far and I as well as other charity shops in the town might start to lose our volunteers."

The BID has urged the council to weigh up the short-term financial gains from increased parking fees against the potential long-term consequences for the town's economy, businesses and wellbeing.

Saffron Walden Reporter: Cllr Neil HargreavesCllr Neil Hargreaves (Image: Uttlesford District Council)

Uttlesford District Council declined to comment on the latest backlash, but made amendments to the proposals in February at the end of the consultation period.

Cllr Neil Hargreaves, portfolio holder for finance and the economy, agreed to continue 30-minute parking in Saffron Walden and to reduce season ticket increases - particularly for those who pay monthly.

He said: "Overall we have listened and altered those areas where there was the greatest concern."