Asda free parking row escalates as Biggleswade councillors prepare to pen open letter

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But the council is expected to stop short of legal action for now

A town council is raising the stakes in a dispute over the length of free parking at a Biggleswade supermarket, but is expected to stop short of legal action for now.

Asda Stores Limited has reduced the two-hour free limit at its Church Street car park to an hour-and-a-half, which town councillors fear will impact on the local festive retail trade.

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The company has yet to respond to letters sent by Biggleswade Town Council officers seeking clarity over the issue.

Asda in BiggleswadeAsda in Biggleswade
Asda in Biggleswade

Head of governance and strategic partnerships Karim Hosseini contacted Central Bedfordshire Council’s compliance officer planning delivery Sally Hicks, who reaffirmed that because of a loosely worded Section 106 agreement the council’s unable to escalate this matter further.

“CBC’s impression is that Asda is within its rights to make the time reduction,” he explained. “The matter was raised within CBC further up the hierarchy.”

A CBC spokesman said in a statement: “Planning permission for the supermarket was granted by Mid Bedfordshire District Council in 2003 and was subject to a Section 106 agreement. That includes an obligation on the supermarket occupier, now Asda, to provide unrestricted public parking for a maximum period of two hours.

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“There’s no minimum period specified and so the council is unable to require Asda to keep the two hours of free parking.”

Town councillor Frank Foster suggested: “If CBC is unwilling to do anything, we should explore taking legal action against Asda ourselves in the interests of Biggleswade residents.”

Deputy mayor Madeline Russell was involved when talks were held at a community forum about the company coming to the town.

“Both the Asda director and store manager were happy it should be two hours,” she said. “I’m unsure about legal action, although we could get independent advice on it at least.

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Read More
Anger as Asda in Biggleswade slashes free parking time

“I don’t want to undermine officers, but the only way we’re going to win this is to make it a political matter or elevate it to a national level. We need to move things into the political arena. Could the mayor write to someone senior at Asda and make clear it’s now a political issue?

“It’s obvious the firm wants to make money from this, as signs have gone up saying: ‘you can buy longer than an hour-and-a-half, if you want to pay’. This goes back on agreements in place before the store opened.”

Town councillor Duncan Strachan said: “The duty to consult with the council appears not to have happened. That’s probably our strongest point and has clearly not taken place.

“The disappointing part is this has just been imposed. We should pursue that side before we start threatening things which may not be possible.

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“If there’s an element of fault, it’s in the wording of the original legal agreement by Mid Bedfordshire District Council.”

Mayor Grant Fage added: “The fact no council has been consulted suggests Asda hasn’t adhered to that part of the original agreement.”

Councillors unanimously agreed the mayor should write an open letter to senior management at Asda and press CBC over the consultation aspect.