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Anger as plan for high street parking charges unveiled
A PLAN to introduce parking charges in the centre of North Yorkshire's market towns has been drawn up in a drive to cut congestion
Leading councillors and traders reacted with fury last night at the news that fees of 80p an hour could be brought in on Northallerton High Street by May next year, with reviews of some other town centres in North Yorkshire, including Richmond, set to follow.
North Yorkshire County Council said a study had revealed 58 per cent of people believed parking in town centres was a problem which introducing higher charges than in off-street car parks would ease.
It said the charges were not being introduced to generate money and that funds from the charges would be invested in highways schemes in the local areas.
Northallerton will be the first town to be examined as part of a county-wide review, after surveys of the High Street revealed the number of vehicles parking for longer than the two-hour limit had fallen by 48 per cent since the introduction of civil parking enforcement in May.
There are about 250 parking spaces on the High Street and the average length of stay has reduced from 59 to 43 minutes since May.
The council said it aimed to increase parking space turnover further by giving motorists 30 minutes’ free parking, meaning 45 per cent of drivers visiting the central shopping area would be unaffected by the charges from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Saturday.
It is also proposed to limit free parking in the surrounding streets of Quaker Lane, South Parade, the north end of the High Street, Hatfield Road and Zetland Street to 30 minutes for non-residents.
A report to the council’s executive states: “Maintaining good access is essential to support the economy.
“The limited evidence which does exist suggests it is the broader retail, commercial, leisure or tourism offer which is the primary factor affecting a town’s competitiveness, not the provision of parking.”
The authority said current parking arrangements encouraged drivers to search for a free space on the High Street, and pointed to traffic congestion in Ripon Market Place when free parking was introduced in 2011.
It said the charges would address air quality issues, identified in Northallerton by Hambleton District Council, by reducing emissions from standing traffic.
Mayor of Northallerton, Councillor John Forrest described the proposals as “another stab in the back for Northallerton”, following announcements that Northallerton Prison and the Rural Payments Agency offices were to close.
He said: “There are a lot of people who use it for two hours. Half an hour on the High Street is not enough.”
Traders said free High Street parking was the town's unique selling point.
High Street toy store owner Marcus Grover, who has campaigned against off-street parking charges in town, said he was appalled by the move, and called on the public to voice their views.
He said: “One of the key reasons high streets are closing is because visitors don’t want to be worried about finding change in their pocket or being fined for being five minutes late.”
The council said a public consultation exercise on its plans for Northallerton would be held in the coming months.
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