ESSEX County Council has been advised to delay plans to scrap free park and ride travel until the proposals has been examined by a special commission set up to combat climate change.

Pensioners can get free bus travel from the Park and Ride site off the A12 in Colchester using concessionary bus passes.

However, the council is considering bringing in a fee of £1.50 - half the £3 fee for other users.

Now the decision has been called into question in the light of council leader David Finch’s announcement on a major climate change initiative.

The Climate Change Commission will meet later this year and be made up of councillors and experts in the field.

The commission will have an initial budget of £250,000 to fund and support environmental initiatives which look into reducing carbon and waste, promoting sustainable transport and working to combat climate change.

At a scrutiny meeting, councillor David Kendall said: “I am against the proposal.

“We had the big statement on the climate change commission and the climate change action plan and we have this issue.”

He said even though the £250,000 for the commission was relatively small, a reserve of £2.6 million could be used towards the investigations. He said: “Surely it would make sense to delay a decision on Park and Ride until this commission has looked at this specific issue in terms of the effect this is having.

“The leader made a clear statement. He said one of the key areas was changing how residents travel.

“The whole point of Park and Ride was to get residents out of their cars.”

Cabinet member Ray Gooding said: “I take your point and it is something I would want to consider.”

Of the 1,494 people who responded to a council consultation into scrapping free bus travel for pensioners only a quarter - 26 per cent - agreed with the proposal saying it would be fairer for everyone.

The remainder of respondents, 74 per cent, disagreed with the idea.

They felt pensioners should get taxpayer-funded transport saying mobility supports independent living and prevents isolation.

In addition, only a third of respondents, 34 per cent, said they would continue to use the service if they had to pay the £1.50 fee.

A total of 45 per cent said they would park elsewhere and almost half - 49 per cent - said they would shop elsewhere which could have a significant impact on town centre trading.

In the last financial year, Colchester’s park and ride had 251,000 passenger journeys.