WITHAM councillors have come together to fight back against a scheme to axe free parking in the town, deeming it a “non-starter” as plans head to the next stage.

The North Essex Parking Partnership (NEPP) is looking to launch a new parking system across the district which could see three parking spots become pay and display.

Under the proposals, free parking in both The Causeway and Bocking End, in Braintree, and Newland Street, in Witham, could be axed.

The new pay and display system would cover the same period as is currently allowed, with The Causeway and Bocking End seeing a maximum stay of two hours implemented.

Other roads touted for pay and display in the district are the High Street and The Centre in Halstead.

Witham Conservative councillors have said the scheme will “harm businesses and shops, resulting in a decreased customer footfall”.

"Charging for parking on Newland Street is a non-starter and something we are not prepared to contemplate,” the councillors said in a joint statement.

Essex County Councillor, Ross Playle, for the Newland Street area, added: "We have requested a meeting with the North Essex Parking Partnership to discuss this proposal and our concerns around the manner with which it has come about.”

The North Essex Parking Partnership previously said how the proposals were “not to generate income but to manage parking and improve traffic flow”.

“While revenue from paid parking may help cover the increasing costs of patrol and enforcement, any surplus is reinvested back into essential traffic management initiatives,” a spokesman added.

Speaking in the meeting discussing the plans, Braintree Council leader Graham Butland said whilst he “didn’t have any issues” with the plans, he stressed the need for further consultation.

He said: “On-street parking is a county council issue. Have the local county councillors been approached for comments on this?

“One specific I think would have come up in any consultation is at The Centre in Halstead, where there is a funeral parlour there and a number of people waiting to follow the hearse park there.

“It’s those little local nuances which I think are important.

“We ought to be going out and consulting before we start doing reports.”

The scheme was approved by the Joint Committee and was voted through subject to additional communications taking place with local residents, businesses and Essex County Council ahead of the formal consultation exercise.