A COUNCIL has announced an intention to continue its town centre car parking offers despite forecasting losing more than £200,000 as a result.

In June 2018, Darlington Borough Council introduced a free two-hour parking offer in numerous long stay car parks, and the authority has also recently announced plans to start offering free parking on a Sunday.

The council plan to run the offers until at least May 2020, when a review will take place, but the authority has warned the loss of revenue from both schemes until that date will be £205,000.

The authority say its funding predictions for this year show that income is likely to be less than that set in their financial plan and, as such, any continuation or new parking offer will compound the predicted position and the council’s overall financial position.

The Sunday free-parking scheme will also replace last year's 'free after three' Christmas parking scheme, which saw all off-street short and long stay car parks in Darlington free after 3pm.

Explaining the decision. Cllr Paul Howell, cabinet member for leisure and local environment, said: "We felt it was better to try and attract people to come to the town centre for a longer period and spend a bit of time here, like on a Sunday, rather than just a short period.

"We know feedback has been positive and we hope the shops will be on board, there are still shops closed on a Sunday and we hope some of them might change.

"We want people to park here for free rather than go to places like Teesside Park, but we also don't want spaces taken up all day, so we will continue to evaluate the offers and encourage people to use the buses and cycle as well."

The authority is also proposing increasing the number of on-street parking spaces in the Duke Street and Imperial Quarter areas of the town, as well as refurbishing the Abbots Yard Car Park.

Cllr Howell said he was also "excited" about the plans to improve road safety at the junction of Duke Street and Larchfield Street, which he said would include a one way system, more parking bays, and road furniture to narrow the entrance and therefore reducing the speed of vehicles.

"The junction has been a problem for a long time and I am excited about the plans."

The Sunday car parking offer is proposed to commence on November 1 and will extend to all council operated pay and display car parks, Feethams multi-storey car park and on-street pay and display parking bays, if cabinet approve the plans next week.