EFFORTS to resolve decades of parking issues in a Dales market town’s three historic squares have been delayed over legal concerns relating to a law dating back to before the First World War.

Leyburn Town Council has asked is seeking definitive clarification from the Yorkshire Local Councils Associations and the National Association of Local Councils about the impact of the Open Spaces Act 1906 on the Market Place, Commercial Square and Grove Square.

The move comes some three years after the issue of car parking provoked the strongest responses to a survey conducted for Leyburn Town Plan.

The study found a strong majority in favour of action over car parking in the town, with many people in favour of free time limited parking in the central squares.

The report stated: “Car parking is the single most important issue for the town. There was a clear view, from both residents and businesses, in favour of swift action and a strong preference for free time-limited disc parking in the town squares.”

The squares, which feature donation boxes for motorists to make contributions, remain unregulated but are registered under the 115-year-old legislation.

It is believed the act could include restrictive covenants which limit the proportion of the squares which could be made into a formal car park, which could severely restrict the number of car parking spaces.

Councillors have questioned if the town council, which owns the squares,  legally appropriates some of the land for parking if that area would be restricted to 800sq ft. An average car is about 100sq ft.

Town council chair, Councillor Richard Sanderson said: “I believe it desperately needs something doing with parking on the squares, but whatever we do will have a cost implication to the rate-payers of Leyburn.

“As it stands they are just open spaces, people park there, but there’s no regulation, and people do unfortunately take advantage of that parking there all day which stops the churn of cars and people being able to shop in the town centre.”

Cllr Sanderson, a former chairman of the Leyburn Business Association, said improvements to town centre parking were a long-held aspiration for many traders and residents alike.

He said: “We are trying to clarify the legal status, what legally we can do with them as open spaces. If we look to put on a Traffic Regulation Order on them what is the process of doing that, if it needs de-registering from the Open Spaces Act or putting a local by-law on them.

“Once we know what we can or cannot do with the squares then we will look at costings for ideas such as pay and display, two-hour disc parking or what would be the cheapest option, placing a by-law on the squares. If parking was to be regulated on the squares we will also look at where traffic may be displaced to.”