Town's park and ride plans get shelved

PLANS for a park-and-ride scheme in Colchester have been shelved until 2011 at the earliest, the EADT can reveal.

Roddy Ashworth

PLANS for a park-and-ride scheme in Colchester have been shelved until 2011 at the earliest, the EADT can reveal.

The three year wait looms after the latest project - due to be operating by December - was abandoned by Colchester Borough Council's new administration yesterday.

The facility, which had the full financial backing of Essex County Council, was cancelled due to town hall disagreements about its location next to the new community stadium in the north of the town.

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And yesterday Colchester Borough Council's new cabinet, who won power in last month's local elections, were accused of “condemning the town to years of congestion misery” by their Conservative predecessors, who had steered the plans through to their final stages.

The 450-space temporary park-and-ride scheme had been due to start operating in December of this year, with the aim of relieving traffic pressure on the centre of Colchester from the northern approaches to the town.

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Drivers heading in would instead divert to the community stadium, leave their vehicles in car parks nearby and catch buses to the shopping areas.

The facility was designed as an interim measure until a new A12 junction near the stadium was built, when a permanent 1000-space park-and-ride scheme would be established at Cuckoo Farm.

Yesterday Norman Hume, Essex County Council's cabinet member with responsibility for highways, confirmed the plans had been shelved during a meeting with Colchester Borough Council's new leader, Anne Turrell.

“Basically they have decided they don't want to carry on with the interim park-and-ride scheme and, as they are the planning authority, we cannot proceed.

“We were going ahead with it on the basis that it would provide relief from congestion and offer drivers an alternative.

“Park-and-ride would have brought travel and environmental benefits and would also have relieved congestion in the town.

“We had the backing of the previous administration and have invested a lot of staff time on this. We were now prepared to put our money on the line and go ahead with it, and the intention was to have it up and running by Christmas - but the new administration have said they don't want it.

“Colchester have suggested we look at other temporary sites, but I have made it clear that is not an option at this stage. We are both agreed on the need for the permanent site, but that won't happen until the new junction is built which won't be for about three or four years.”

Yesterday Mrs Turrell said that the reason for withdrawing support for the interim park-and-ride site was that she believed it was too far away from existing junctions on the A12 and would not ease congestion to the extent suggested.

“The Ipswich Road junction on the A12 is two miles away. People might as well drive straight into the town as drive there,” she said.

“And it wouldn't ease congestion. The bulk of the traffic that causes congestion at the North Station Road roundabout is local traffic - those drivers are not going to head out of town to go to catch a bus to go back in. Park-and-ride is meant for visitors of the town, not locals.

“There is also the problem of what happens when the community stadium is in use. It's not just football, there will be other events as well.

“There is a match-day travel plan for when games are played, but the group that put it together were not informed of the possibility of a park-and-ride on the site so they could take it into account, and Essex County Council didn't take the travel plan into account when they proposed the park-and-ride.”

The community stadium proposal had become the last of a number of park and ride options considered after plans for a facility at Eight Ash Green were shelved following years of protests by villagers there. Proposals for a scheme at Stanway were also ditched.

Last night Robert Davidson, Conservative leader of the borough council until last month, said: “Both Colchester2020 and the public wanted this park-and-ride, and we had been ready to go ahead with building it.

“I am saddened the congestion in the town won't now be relieved, and I believe the new administration has missed a major opportunity to improve Colchester.”

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