Saffron Walden Town Council launches legal challenge to UDC’s parking removal

This week Saffron Walden Town Council formally agreed to start legal proceedings to block the removal of on-street parking from a mile of the town’s roads. All the political parties on the town council supported taking this step.

The removal of a mile of on-street parking from Ashdon Rd, Borough Lane, Mount Pleasant Rd, and Peaslands Rd has been driven by Uttlesford District Council’s Cabinet Member Susan Barker. Cllr Barker is a District Councillor for High Easter & The Rodings, an Essex Councillor for Dunmow and her Cabinet portfolio includes housebuilding.

At the Colchester meeting where the decision was approved, Cllr Barker stated that the yellow lines were required to allow more housebuilding on the east of Saffron Walden. Under the previously failed Local Plan, UDC already approved over 800 homes on the east of Walden and her party’s new revised version could see the same number approved again.

However the law doesn’t allow the mass removal of parking for actions that may (or may not) happen in the future. It also requires adequate provision be made for the up to 220 displaced vehicles to park. The approval process requires evidence to support the case, and demands significant local support including the official approval by the town council. None of this was done.

After the meeting R4U’s Cllr Richard Freeman, who is chair of the Town Council’s Planning and Traffic Committee said:

“At Monday’s Full Council meeting Saffron Walden Town Council agreed to apply for a Judicial Review to overturn the decision to remove a large number parking places from a mile of the town’s streets. The proposal to remove parking was pushed through by UDC so that large new housing estates could be built to the east of town. Over 280 people and organisations objected to the proposals, including local schools and the Town Council. The decision required the approval of the Town Council and 50% local support and it was never given. There was no consideration as to where displaced vehicles would park, how parents would be able to pick up children from schools, and how safety would be maintained once a high-speed expressway was created through residential streets. Now that we have agreed to proceed with this action, our first step will be to receive detailed legal advice to guide our case.”

The proposals were objected to by local schools who are concerned that it will prevent parents from picking and dropping off children. This is particularly the case for RA Butler school that serves Sewards End children and St Thomas More that has a wide catchment area because it is a faith school.

A spokesperson for the Bell Nursery was quoted in the Walden Local this week.

Glenys Goodwin, a manager at the Bell Nursery on Peaslands Road, said that her staff were now parking their cars further and further away: “The Council suggested we parked on Crabtrees but there aren’t that many spaces there because of all the driveways. The no-parking plan would turn the road system into a complete rat-run – there is one zebra crossing but often drivers do not stop and the white lines marking the crossing are wearing out.”

If not blocked by legal challenge, residential streets such as Crabtrees, Hop Fields, Victoria Ave, South Rd, West Rd, Mandeville Rd, Springhill Rd, Shepherds Way, Highfields, Hollyhock Rd, Harvey and Elisabeth Ways are likely to see significantly more parking and congestion.

These proposals come on top of UDC’s recent decision to restrict parking on the Common Car Park, which was also strongly opposed by local residents. It is clear that the current UDC administration has have clear policies of siting excessive homes on a town that already has infrastructure breaking point, and forcing through traffic measures before consulting with what residents actually need and want.

On close scrutiny of the consultation submissions to the proposals, both support and objection responses expressed concerns about safety and congestion. 283 people and organisations objected to the removal of parking, 95%. A large number of the 5% that supported the scheme even expressed concerns about the safety of the proposals. It is clear that there is no local mandate for the scheme as it stands. People have said they want some changes, but not the wholesale removal of parking. They also say that safety on school walking-routes needs to be maintained and replacement parking needs to be provided. An evidence-led resident consultation is required to generate a transport plan that actually tackles the problems with the town’s road network, whilst ensuring open access for both residents and local villagers.