PRESSURE is growing on a council to change its town centre parking strategy after a campaign group called for a time-limited free offering.

Leaders of the I’m Backing Darlington campaign group are calling on Darlington Borough Council to introduce permanent time-limited free parking to encourage shoppers to visit the town and boost trade.

The council currently offers two-hours of free parking in some long stay car parks and plans to have free parking after 3pm in the run up to Christmas are set to be approved later today.

But although campaigners welcome the proposals, they say it will be an "opportunity missed" not to offer free parking permanently, particularly street parking.

Graham Robb, one of the founders of the campaign group, said: The I’m Backing Darlington campaign wants to see a thriving town centre.

"The number one issue is Darlington’s insistence on clinging on to parking charges when time limited free parking would be a move to encourage shoppers – tinkering around confuses people.

"If somebody lives in, say, Middleton St George, they can turn left and come to Darlington with the cost and inconvenience of parking charges, or turn right to Yarm where parking is free for a short period."


Cllr Nick Wallis, cabinet member for leisure and local environment, said: “'Free-After-Three' is a great way to encourage more people to shop in Darlington.

"It mirrors the offer in Durham City, and sits alongside our new two-hour free parking in car parks around the ring-road, and £2 a day parking in East Street multi-storey car park, above Wilkos.

"As a historic market town, Darlington has a unique atmosphere, a perfect tonic for out-of-town shopping parks.

"We are working hard with traders to make the shopping experience here perfect, with cleaner and safer streets complementing the fantastic mix of larger chain stores, brilliant independents and cafes, bars and restaurants.

"It is frustrating that some people in Darlington spend so much time encouraging people to shop elsewhere, including Yarm, which has its own fair share of empty shops.”

The I'm Backing Darlington campaign was launched earlier this year in response to the closure of a number of town centre businesses.