SHOPKEEPERS looking forward to a bumper Olympic payday could be left disappointed after it emerged tourists could be kept away from their town centre.

Businesses in Waltham Abbey had hoped the period in July and August, 2012, marked out for the Olympic Games would have seen thousands of extra visitors passing through as they went to the white water rafting centre just over the border in Waltham Cross.

But under the park and ride scheme rubber-stamped by the district council on Monday (October 25) spectators will be packed on to coaches at North Weald Airfield, driven to the site, off Highbridge Street, and then picked up to be driven straight back as soon as the events are over.

Tony Lane, owner of Tony's Pie and Mash, in Market Square, Waltham Abbey said: “I'm absolutely gutted. When the Olympics were going on I thought the Abbey would be a buzzing place.

“I didn't expect to buy a new car out of it- it's only two weeks- but I'm disappointed. It would have brought revenue in and it would have been nice to see thousands of tourists from different countries coming through.

“If that's the decision they've made it's hardly going to put Waltham Abbey on the map. It's not much to ask for to have the coaches stop over in Waltham Abbey.”

Landlord at the Welsh Harp, in Market Square, John Lipsett said: “I find it very strange. Waltham Abbey has been looking forward to the Olympics and of course the crowds with it.

“It's right there in the firing line and councillors should be promoting that not sitting on their hands. They should be shoving more people in our direction and encouraging them to come.”

Activities at the White Water Rafting Centre, which has a capacity of 12,000, are due to take place on four days in 2012.

The district council cabinet meeting was told that the Olympic Delivery Authority had handed down the strict rules for the transport system.

Cllr Janet Whitehouse asked if a stop-off on the route from North Weald to the site could be staged at Waltham Abbey.

She said: “Surely we want to bring some benefit to the district? I can see the ODA's point of view but we want something out of this.”

Council acting chief executive Derek Macnab said meetings would be held at the highest level with the ODA to discuss the issue.

Waltham Abbey Town Centre Partnership chairman Norma Green admitted it was unlikely the ODA's decision would be overturned but suggested traders should make the most of the legacy aspect to the games.

She said: “The venue opens on April 15. My view is if Waltham Abbey makes the best use of that time before the Olympics people will have an opportunity of seeing what Waltham Abbey has to offer and I think we'll gain a lot from it.”