TRADERS are celebrating after Rochford District Council postponed plans to bring in Saturday afternoon parking charges.

New charges were set to be introduced this month that would see drivers paying £1 to park at council-run car parks on Saturday afternoons between 1pm and 7pm.

People would have also been charged an extra 20p during the week as well, under the proposals which were controversially agreed in January.

However, the Tory-run council now says the charges have been put on hold until they can be debated further at a full council meeting in June – after May’s local elections.

Carl Watson, president of the Rayleigh Chamber of Trade, said: “I think it is great news they have not come in yet and the issue is going back for further discussion.

“The councillors bringing it back to council the first time raised the profile of the matter and it’s good to see the other councillors are now listening to the views of the public and traders.

“It is a great opportunity to have a full and proper debate on the issue, rather than it just being forced through.”

The controversial decision to introduce parking charges led to nine Conservatives tabling a motion calling for further debate, but the charges were again given the go ahead in February and scheduled for implementation on April 1.

However, a council statement said: “The charges are under review to consider the objections received and are set to be discussed at full council in June.”

Part of those objections will be a 500-strong petition collected by Chris Stanley, Liberal democrat candidate for the Grange ward.

Collected in Rayleigh High Street, Mr Stanley submitted the petition on the grounds of a possible increase in on-street parking and congestion.

He said: “People were queuing to put their names to the petition.

“We are keeping the petition non-political because this price hike seems to offend everyone.

We all want to see our town centre continue to prosper but realise that it cannot be taken for granted.

“At present Saturday afternoon is a relaxed time when people can shop, dine or socialise without rushing back for parking tickets.

“Is the council is so mean it cannot understand why people value this small exemption?”

The planned charges are designed to bring in £180,000 a year, meaning approximately £30,000will be lost if they are not introduced until June.

Independent councillor for Hawkwell West, John Mason, questioned the motive behind the latest delay.

He said: “Could it be that the new charges won’t come in until after the May elections?

“Call me cynical, but what other explanation could there be?”