EMBATTLED businesses have criticised council plans to temporarily close one of the main car parks in Epping – just weeks before Christmas.

Epping Forest District Council is shutting half of the spots in Bakers Lane from tomorrow for two weeks while they resurface the area and install new lighting and CCTV, only allowing space for permit holders.

But traders suffering from the recession have slammed the timing of the closure, amid fears it will keep away shoppers from the area.

Len Schooling, 63, who runs an artificial flower stall on the Monday market, said: “This is going to affect the market and shops in a big way. To do it before Christmas is the worst timing possible – this is always our busiest time.”

“It would make much better sense if they closed it in January or February, which is always the quietest time for businesses and would have the least impact.”

Mark Strutton, 50, who runs a kitchenware stall, said: “Parking is bad enough around here as it is. I don't understand why they would do this now. January is the time to close it.”

Barbara Martin, 50, who runs a business selling linen with her husband Steve, said: “What worries me is if people turn up and see the car park is closed then they will go away without knowing when it will reopen.”

Greengrocer Steve Raymond, 48, has run a stall on the market for 15 years, said: “It's been tough big time recently. I've seen a steady decline in the last two years.

“Would Lakeside shopping centre close their car park for two weeks? No they wouldn't. Why can't they delay it till January or February?”

Viv Townshend, of Townshend Shoes, said: “I think the council treat us very well and I have no complaints, but the timing of this is unhelpful. It's very hard at the moment for traders.”

A spokesman for the council said it hoped that the works would only affect one market day in an attempt to cause "as little disruption to stallholders and their customers as possible".

He added: “The upgrade works to be carried out consist of resurfacing the entire area of the car park, providing new improved surface drainage, improving the lighting and installing CCTV.”