COLCHESTER’S Conservative group has pledged to pedestrianise the high street over weekends in a bid to attract more people to the town.

Leader Darius Laws also said the move would resurrect the town’s market and would even lead to a bigger and better event.

The party is the first to launch its manifesto ahead of the borough elections in May.

At the moment, the Conservatives are the largest single party in Colchester Council.

The group is in opposition to the council’s ruling cabinet, which is made up of the Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Highwoods Independents.

Speaking at the launch event this afternoon, Mr Laws said: “I feel the market is not delivering what it should be and we need to think outside the box.

“We want to give people the John Lewis experience when they come to town centre but buses travelling up High Street right behind the market stalls at 30mph is not that experience.

“In fact I don’t think it’s safe at all.”

He added: “The plan would be to start it every Saturday and Sunday then it could be rolled out a bit more.”

Colchester MP Will Quince, who also attended the manifesto launch, added: “We know this can be done.

"There are several days in the year when the High Street is closed and buses are re-routed.

“In fact, most of those days are Sundays so the initial impact wouldn’t be that great.

“We think it would lead to a better and higher quality market on Saturdays.”

The Conservative added: “We’ve thought for a long time that the market is too financially motivated and we believe footfall should be placed higher up the priority list than someone paying however much they have to pay for a market pitch.

“If people knew they were coming to our market and they’d find dozens of artisans with their own produce, whether than be jams or breads - things they had made in their own home - then we think footfall would increase.

“That is turn obviously means there are more people in town centre spending money.”

The group’s three-page manifesto also pledges to work with businesses to offer two-hours off peak free parking as part of the planned Business Improvement District (Bid), which is due to be voted upon over the summer.

Mr Laws said: “The Bid is going to be a huge step forward for the town centre.

“I want it to be business-led and I think other parties will agree.

“In terms of the parking, it would probably be quite difficult to make that go through the council parking machines so it would be more likely to be along the lines of businesses validating shoppers’ tickets.”

The dad-of-one has also pledged a five-year plan to “deal with Colchester’s worst infrastructure problems”.

He added: “Everyone knows at peak times, Colchester is gridlocked.

“The Government has actively been giving the council New Homes Bonus money designated for infrastructure but where has it gone? We believe that money has not been used correctly.”

Mr Laws added: “We know 50 per cent of the population of the borough live outside the town, so let’s be better at bringing those people in.”

The party also announced plans to use NHB cash introduce a Bite Card, which would provide a discount for people aged under 25.

‘Boris Bikes’ would also be made available across the borough.

The new leader added: “As a cyclist, I know our cycling infrastructure is way behind - it’s not good enough and we have got to up our game and that’s exactly what we would do.

“Improving infrastructure is not just about improving and building roads, it has got to be about improving sustainable transport as well.”

The party has also pledged to reintroduce weekly black bag collections, with a maximum of two sacks per week - at odds with the current system which sees households without a wheelie bin limited to three black sacks per fortnight.

The party also plans to look into incentives, such as an advantage card which would give holders discounts at Leisure World or when parking, to encourage residents to recycle.