MOTORISTS have been left bemused about whether they need to pay to park on a high street after reading apparently contradictory signs.

North Yorkshire County Council has placed signs at the entrances to Northallerton High Street stating its controversial parking charges scheme came into effect on Monday.

The authority hopes the move will attract shoppers to the town by easing congestion and making short-stay car-parking easier in the High Street.

But traders, including Barkers department store, Bettys Tea Rooms and grocer Lewis and Cooper, have said the scheme will deter customers and of 400 people who responded to a council consultation over the scheme, only ten were in support.

In recent weeks, the council has installed a number of parking meters, which state motorists must pay 80p an hour after an initial 30 free minutes.

However, alongside the 250 parking bays, up to 20 signs fixed to posts, which do not mention parking charges, simply advise drivers they can park for up to two hours, from 8am to 6pm, from Monday to Saturday, as they could under previous parking scheme.

In the first two days of charging hundreds of motorists have paid up to £1.60 to park, while others have ignored the parking meters and displayed parking discs for up to two hours.

Scores of other motorists have paid for tickets and displayed parking discs in their windscreens.

Ian Woods, chairman of Thornton le Moor Parish Council, said: “It’s a complete farce. I’ve just driven down the High Street and it’s unclear whether you need to pay or not.

“I live in the area, so goodness knows what it would be like for someone new to the town.”

Motorist Doug Gray, who has lived in Northallerton for 50 years, said he had opted to place a disc in his car, while another driver, who declined to be named, left both a parking disc and a £1.60 ticket in her car.

She said: “I puzzled over the signs for a good ten minutes after parking, who knows what you should do?

“On reflection, if people do neither I don’t think they should be fined or should refuse to pay it as it’s just so confusing.”

A council spokesman said: “All the signs that are up comply with the national signage regulations.

“We will monitor the situation to see if there is a need for some extra signs.”