A DARLINGTON business owner is calling on the council to review its parking policy to boost flagging town centre trade.

Following the move by Middlesbrough Council to introduce two hours of free parking in all council-operated car parks and some residential streets, Beryl Hankin, owner of Guru Boutique, in Blackwellgate, is urging Darlington Borough Council to consider more attractive parking rates to attract more shoppers back to the town centre.

She believes that while business owners are doing their best to keep trading in the town centre, they need help from the council with more convenient and attractive parking policies in order to continue attracting customers.

“In four years I have never known it as quiet as this,” she said. “I absolutely understand that the council is not the cause of all the difficulties people are experiencing just now, that is down to the state of the economy.

“All we want to do is to make sure the council hear the message from the businesses here in Darlington that while we are doing our bit for the town by being welcoming, we do need help to continue to do that in the form of more attractive and convenient parking policies.

“Browsing time is so important to businesses, but the expensive parking means people either rush in, get what they need and go, or don’t come into town at all.”

A council spokeswoman said: “The council is currently considering its parking strategy for the whole Borough that results from its previous work on proposed land uses and regeneration projects such at the new town centre cinema.

“This will include a review of the locations, number of spaces needed, the nature of that need, for example, for leisure or work, the quality of the offer and a review of pricing policy and payment methods.”

It is hoped these options will be reported to the cabinet in May, and residents and businesses will have the opportunity to submit ideas and suggestions as it develops.