AN auctioneer says suspending town centre street parking could make his business unviable when it opens again next month.

Thomas Watson Auctioneers, in Darlington, is hoping to run its first event in almost three months on June 23, after lockdown restrictions are eased.

Owner Peter Robinson says he is worried suspending street parking in Northumberland Street, where the auction house is based, will stop people from attending.

Darlington Borough Council is temporarily suspending on street parking in Grange Road, Northumberland Street and Duke Street from Monday in a step aimed at creating space for pedestrians and shoppers to keep their distance.

Mr Robinson, who intends to open on June 15, said: “Most of the people who are coming to our premises are either bringing something like a couple of boxes of silver items or a box of china for appraisal, or they are attending an auction and plan to take something away.

“People park in Northumberland Street, buy a ticket and come and spend 10 or 15 minutes with us. I don’t think people will be prepared to come if they have to park in Sainsbury’s and carry their items.”

He added: “If people come and find they can’t park anywhere near I think they will just drive away and leave it.

“I just can’t see what problem the parking bays create for people. I don’t know what the council is trying to achieve.

“I think it will have a very big impact on our viability.”

A Darlington Borough Council spokesperson said: "On street car parking in this area has been temporarily suspended to allow more space for pedestrians to pass on pavements whilst still observing the required social distance.

"Alongside this, as businesses reopen, we need to allow for possible queues outside of shops.

"Our aim is to enable and promote social distancing to keep everyone safe in line with Government/Public Health England guidelines and this will remain the top priority within our town centre as more premises reopen.

"We have received a number of suggestions and queries on the plans and will consider these as we continue to develop more detailed proposals.

"The plans will be under regular review as guidelines and requirements change.”

Auction houses have been told they can start to reopen their businesses from June 1.

The first sale at Thomas Watson is one which had been due to take place in March but was cancelled because of the lockdown.

Measures are being put in place to make the venue safe, including moving benches to allow people to sit two metres apart, having a maximum of 20 people attending at any time, introducing a viewing card system and running the auction according to a strict schedule to allow people to attend for shorter periods.

Telephone bidding is also being extended, and online bidding will be available.