Saturday, 02 February 2013 11:20
Local residents and business owners have been undertaking fierce lobbying to preserve free weekend parking in Billericay and Wickford amid concerns that axing it could harm the towns' economies.
The continuation of complimentary parking in both towns is under review as Basildon Borough Council draws up its financial plans for the year ahead.
At present, motorists are not charged to park their vehicles between 9.30am on Saturday until 8am on Monday in borough council-owned car parks.
Parking charges have also been waived in these car parks at Christmas.
The car parks are behind Iceland in Billericay High Street and in Radford Crescent, plus the car park by the Co-operative in Wickford High Street.
Trevor Draper, the owner of Billericay Cookshop in the High Street, said: "The bigger problem that needs to be addressed is the capacity in the car parks.
"I'm not opposed to the free parking if it helps people's overall view of the town.
"If people perceive it as being useful then it's also useful for the shops and due to the recession we need whatever help we can get.
"Capacity is the real issue though and the spaces we do have are not enough.
"If this isn't addressed it will lead to the eventual demise of Billericay High Street."
Essex County Council member for Billericay and Burstead, Tony Hedley, said: "Over the last few years to support our town's economy we have made it a priority for free parking at weekends and Christmas.
"However, the funding needs to be agreed each year in Basildon Borough Council's annual budget.
"This will be decided on February 14.
"I am, therefore, along with other Billericay Conservative Councillors, lobbying Councillor Stuart Sullivan, the borough council's cabinet member for resources, to continue the funding again this year.
"We need to support residents and traders while the economic recession continues to eat into household incomes and traders' running costs."
The Tory deputy leader of Basildon Borough Council, Phil Turner, said: "This is a no-brainer.
"We're competing with places like Lakeside and Bluewater and people don't want to have to pay for their parking any more."
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