TRADERS and residents are celebrating after councillors scrapped plans to introduce controversial Saturday parking charges.

Members of Rochford District Council voted to abandon previous plans to introduce the £1 an hour parking charge in councilrun car parks.

The afternoon charges would have raised between £62,500 and £65,000, but businesses believed they would severely affect their trade, while shoppers said they would head to out-of-town shopping centres with free car parks.

Themove to scrap the plan was made possible after a £60,000 saving was identified in a contingency fund.

Speaking after councillors were given a free vote to scrap the idea, Mike Steptoe, councillor responsible for enterprise, said: “As a council, it is vital we listen to the residents and businesses in our district and act upon there wishes wherever possible.

“As such, we became aware of just how unpopular the prospect of Saturday afternoon car parking charges were to those who live and work in our district.

“We decided to take stock and asked our officers to see if there was any other way of finding the money to meet this gap in our budget – and I’m delighted to say that they have been able to do so.”

Those who had criticised the charge were delighted at the decision. Linda Kendall, 66, chairman of Rayleigh Action Group, said: “I attended the meeting where the decision was made to impose the charges. It was imposed with no referral to the council.

“The parking issue has exposed the way these decisions are made”

Tory town and district councillor Cheryl Roe, who supported a motion to have the plans reconsidered by the council, said: “I think residents do understand increases are necessary.

“However, Saturday afternoon parking was always going to be suicidal. Residents and businesses will be pleased, as I am. It’s been a long hard fight.”

Carl Watson, president of Rayleigh Chamber of Trade, said: “It’s great to see the council is taking on board the views of the chamber, the business community and the general public as well as their own councillors.

“It was excellent news that it now won't be introduced."

DURING the full council meeting the following was also agreed:

*To raise parking charges in council pay and display car parks

*To introduce parking charges for all Blue Badge holders, in line with the Equalities Act 2010, to require all Blue Badge Holders to be treated equally, by paying the same fee. At present, those with a road tax exemption park free. However, Blue Badge Holders will be granted a one-hour concession beyond the expiry time printed on their ticket ! To extend the charging period in Old Ship Lane, Rochford, from up to two hours to up to four hours.

* The councillor responsible for enterprise to receive six-monthly reports to be able to determine whether there is a need to amend charges and operating conditions for its car parks.