COLCHESTER’S first park and ride has received a boost after it was revealed Essex County Council has set aside £6million to build it.
The cash is included in the council’s proposed budget for 2014/15 and follows a series of failed bids for Government funding.
Work will start on the longawaited 1,000-space facility at Cuckoo Farm later this year, but an opening date has not yet been set.
Rodney Bass, councillor responsible for highways, said: “The advent of park-and-ride in Colchester could be the most significant event of the decade in supporting the future growth and economic wellbeing of Colchester.
“I trust we can achieve its introduction on time and within budget as indeed we did in Chelmsford.”
The park and ride is seen as crucial to attract more tourists and shoppers to the town who might otherwise use park and rides in Ipswich or Chelmsford.
It is also a key component of plans to reduce congestion in north Colchester, where thousands of homes are being built.
Anne Turrell, leader of Colchester Council and a Mile End councillor, said the park and ride would be popular with commuters and ease congestion at hotspots like North Station Roundabout.
She said: “Every town that has had park and ride has seen benefits.
“The difference in Chelmsford is phenomenal. It used to be horrendous shopping there and now it’s a lot better.”
In the last two years the Gazette has reported on a series of failed applications for Government grants.
Two bids for Department for Transport “pinch point” funding and a grant from the department’s “better bus area fund”
have been rejected. The authority has, until now, refused to confirm it would fund the park and ride if the Government didn’t.
Mr Bass said: “Newspaper reports on Colchester park and ride have tended to show a mixture of opinions in the past according to how the most recent funding bids are perceived to be faring.
“Our position has been consistently cautious and responsible throughout.
“Our target date for the implementation of park and ride in Colchester is likely to be later this year.
“We are still trying to achieve that with the welcome capital funds now allocated and which can pump prime the construction of the parking facility and terminus.”
A road and bus lane, linking the Northern Approach Road with the A12 junction and the future park and ride, is due to be completed this summer.
Further bus lanes are due to be added alongside the Northern Approach Road at a later date.
Mr Bass said the town centre bus lanes, recently temporarily suspended after 30,000 fines were sent out within weeks, were crucial to the success of the park and ride.
He said: “That is why we have placed so much importance upon them even though they are controversial.”
Budget proposals will be discussed by the authority’s cabinet tomorrow before a final decision is made at a full council meeting on February 11.