PARKING in Darlington should be better managed to make the town more car friendly and attract more shoppers, councillors have said.

Members of Darlington Borough Council’s place scrutiny committee agreed that radical change to improve parking and to encourage people to use public transport was necessary, but that becoming ‘car haters’ was not an option.

Consultation on the future of parking in Darlington was carried out last summer for a long-term strategy for parking in the town centre and residents’ parking zones.

A large number of respondents to the consultation called for free parking in the town centre, at least for the first three hours, but the committee agreed that was not a feasible option, as the income is needed to maintain car parks and the highways.

Owen Wilson, the council’s lead officer for the parking strategy, said parking charges had not been increased since 2009, which meant the cost of paying to park in Darlington had fallen by 15 per cent in real terms. Pay on foot car parks, where people to pay on the return to their car, also proved popular with the public in the consultation.

The system will be introduced in the proposed new multi-storey car park in Beaumont Street, but Mr Wilson said it would be too expensive to implement retrospectively in the existing car parks.

Members discussed congestion in Darlington and agreed that parking and the highways network did not always make the town look attractive or welcoming to motorists.

Coun Richard Grundy, member for Faverdale, said: “We want the town to be beautiful to attract people here but if they can’t park their cars they are not going to come.

“It’s about managing it so we make the town attractive so people want to come, but with well thought out parking so they can come.

“We need to be radical and car-friendly, not radical and car haters because that’s the biggest turn-off for people going to towns.”

Councillor Dot Long, member for Northgate, said: “We have inherited the layout of the town and it is terribly difficult to retrofit a town to make it suitable for cycling, pedestrians and motorists.”

The parking strategy will be discussed further by the council’s cabinet and the full council before it is passed and implemented.