HUNDREDS of health workers have been told they can no longer park for free.

The 285 staff at the Primary Care Centre in Turner Road, Colchester, will have to pay to park at the 208-space car park, in order to leave room for patients.

The changes will be introduced next month, ahead of the opening of a new walk-in centre which is expected to see hundreds more patients come through the doors.

The charging scale has not been set yet.

Staff have voiced their opposition to the changes and nearby residents fear their streets will become clogged during the day.

One health worker, who did not want to be named, said she might have to reduce the hours she worked because of extra travelling time.

She said: “Everyone hates it. They’re not happy, especially parents, carers and people who live in Halstead, Earls Colne or further away.

“Everyone is very upset about it.

“They have moved the goalposts. When I applied for the job, there was parking.”

Myland borough councillor Martin Goss added: “There will be hundreds of staff with nowhere to park.

“They’ve been told they can park in the pay and display car park, but obviously they will park on the side roads.

“Local residents have been let down yet again.”

Alan Mack, director of corporate development and governance at NHS North East Essex, said staff were being encouraged to find alternatives to driving to work, while some parking permits would be available.

He continued: “The car park provides 208 spaces and, at the moment, 90 per cent of those are taken by staff by about 8.30am.

“Our priority must be ensuring patients who need to use the centre and who are unable to use alternative modes of transport can park at the facility.

“New restrictions on staff parking in the car park will take affect around the middle of May, by which time we will have alternative options in place.

“At no point have we advocated parking in local residential streets as an option. Staff are being kept fully updated with these arrangements and we are confident that whilst some may experience a degree of inconvenience, they share our view that patients must take priority.”

Doctors and nurses at neighbouring Colchester General Hospital have their own staff car park, but are told not to drive to work where possible.

They pay 0.15 per cent of their wages for parking, which works out at about £5 or £6 a month on average.