CONCERNS have been raised over plans to transform land designated for a retail development into a car park.
The site of the former bus depot on North Bondgate, Bishop Auckland, has been a derelict eyesore for many years.
Developer Gentoo was granted permission to build shops and restaurants last year.
However, company bosses said the project was unlikely to get off the ground due to the ever-expanding Bishop Auckland Shopping Park.
Speaking at a meeting of Bishop Auckland Town Council, Chris Myers, regeneration projects manager at Durham County Council (DCC), said it could be transformed into car parking in the short term.
“We are looking at car parking issues and there is an opportunity in North Bondgate,” he said. “Once we have got costs we will do a formal consultation.”
Mayor of Bishop Auckland, Councillor Charlie Kay raised concerns that if this plan went ahead the site would never again be home to businesses.
Mr Myers said: “We are looking at all other options in the short term. The retail consent is there and still valid."
Durham County Council’s short term priority is to clear the site so it can be used by exhibitors at the two-day Bishop Auckland Food Festival in April.
“It would be nice not just for the food festival,” said Councillor Lesley Zair. “Every time you drive up North Bondgate, it is more boarded up.”
The news at the council meeting sparked discussions over what type of parking is needed in Bishop Auckland town centre.
Coun Kay said: “I find it irritating that Bishop Auckland shoppers have to pay for shopping here while other towns across in the county get it for free.
“You (DCC) have to look at a fairer way.”
Councillor Ann Golightly said: “We have far too much short term parking.”
Councillor Sam Zair, who was not at the meeting on Tuesday, February 26, has previously called for free parking in an effort to boost trade in the town.
“I don’t know why Bishop Auckland can’t have free parking,” he said. “People are not going to come into the town because they have to pay. Something needs to be done.”
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