SHOPPERS have threatened to boycott Abingdon’s Waitrose if the supermarket starts charging for parking.

A planning application was submitted last week by the retailer, seeking permission to install three licence plate recognition cameras at the Abbey Close store.

In a supporting statement to Vale of White Horse District Council on their purpose, it stated: “The new pay on foot system will help facilitate the availability of parking spaces for Waitrose customers.”

Currently customers are able to park for two hours for free in the large car park, but face a £70 fine if they overstay.

This is mirrored at two nearby district council operated car parks, where parking is free up to two hours.

John Jones, from North Abingdon, said he was against any introduction of charges, saying: “We don’t want parking charges here.

“If they do it I won’t be shopping here anymore. I’ll just go to Tesco where there is free parking.”

The 62-year-old added: “I don’t believe for a second this is about controlling parking but is a money making exercise to tax customers. They’ll take away the free tea next.”

Gordon Spiers, 46, agreed, saying: “I live overlooking the car park and from my experience I don’t think it’s too busy. It gets bad at Christmas time but it’s never unmanageable.

“I think it will drive people away.”

Liz Maconochie, from Sutton Courtney, said she would be less likely to use the supermarket if she had to pay, adding: “It’s good for Waitrose but not for us.”

Alison Gunston, 62, of Radley Road, meanwhile, said she was not necessarily opposed to charges as they would discourage people from abusing the free parking but was unhappy with cameras checking everyone’s licence plate.

She said: “It is very wrong that parking enforcement bully boys are given these details, surely data protection should come into play?”

When asked for comment about the application a Waitrose spokesman denied there were any immediate plans to impose charges.

He said: “We have submitted a planning application for an Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system to understand if this might be an option in the future to help us improve how we manage the car park.

“We are not proposing to introduce a pay and display system.”

Waitrose customers in Headington recently objected to increased car parking prices at their store.

Hundreds of people signed a petition against Oxford City Council proposals to hike minimum charges in two Headington car parks, including one that backs onto Waitrose.

Objectors said the ‘outrageous’ 47 per cent increase was ‘deliberately targeting Waitrose shoppers’ and threatened local traders and Headington Market.