CONTROVERSIAL plans to introduce parking charges in Middlewich have been scrapped.

Cheshire East Council announced the dramatic U-turn last Wednesday after a nine month fight by campaigners.

Council leader Wesley Fitzgerald said: "We have listened to representations from ward members, the public and from traders and we understand better the issues that affect specific areas.

"It is to be hoped that local people are reassured that they have been listened to and that their views have been taken into account.

“I would like to thank everyone who responded to the consultation and helped make a difference."Residents, traders and town councillors are hailing it as a victory. But many fear that parking charges will be pushed back on to the agenda after the general election.

Mike Walley, who runs a mail order company called Everything Dinosaur in Goodwood Rise, would have had to pay at the Civic Way car park every time he used the post office.

He said: “It’s inspiring that when people in the community are upset about a local issue they can band together for a satisfactory result.

“I think Cheshire East Council has lost a lot of trust. People were angry at the imposition of the charges and the way the council conducted itself.

“I don’t think the fight is over and if they do eventually introduce charges it will be a retrospective and detrimental step.”

Parking will remain free in Middlewich for the foreseeable future but 'need for further controls' will be monitored by the authority.

Alan Langley, who lead the campaign in the town, said he wanted to thank the 3,600 people who signed his petition.

“It’s a victory for Middlewich,” he said.

“I’m glad that they’ve listened to reason and hope that it’s not a temporary respite.”

Janet Chisholm, founder of Middlewich Clean Team, added: “I think in this case common sense has prevailed.

“It’s the most important decision Cheshire East Council has made since it started in April.”

The announcement was made less than 48 hours after Clr David Brickhill, who was in charge of implementing the charges, resigned due to health reasons.

But it is now known whether the furore over the car parks played any part in his decision to leave.

It was also just days after campaign group No2parkingcharges accused the authority of taking complaints about the charges out of the complaints process.

But a spokesman for the council said: “Complaints regarding car parking charges have not been removed from the complaints process, but rather channelled elsewhere within the organisation to ensure prompt and appropriate care and action.”

Plans are also in place to transfer the enforcement of on-street parking from the police to the council and provide a residents' parking scheme within 12 months.

Clr Mike Parsons, of Middlewich Town Council, said: “Maybe there is a hope for democracy after all and it is worth fighting for what you believe in.

“We may have won the battle but we have yet to win the war.”