Shop bosses say they are struggling to run their businesses and customers are being driven away by new rules over parking near their stores.
People with stores in Peterlee’s Castle Dene Shopping Centre say they are struggling to get stock to their premises and finding spaces within the car parks following a decision to stop them from parking at the back of their shops.
They also say their efforts to talk to the centre’s management team have been shut down, leading to a series of rows between them and staff.
Changes at the site have also seen parking available for free, which means there is more demand for spaces, with some complaining customers have missed appointments because they cannot find a place to leave their vehicles.
Read more: Shopping centre announces free parking in bid to boost trade in town centre
Umar Akhtar, who runs Newsforce, said he had been fined a total of £900 for parking at the rear of his newsagent shop and has clashed with centre management and says he has to move his stock from his van in the car park to his shop, which is causing difficulties.
Police were called in following a confrontation between him and the staff.
Now we have to drive around the car park to find somewhere to park and it can take 30 or 40 minutes.Umar Akhtar
He said: “All the people who work in the town centre have to park there as well, when they could park behind their shops before.
“Now we have to drive around the car park to find somewhere to park and it can take 30 or 40 minutes.
“If you’ve got 40 people from the shops now parking in the car park, that means they’re not there for the customers and people have to drive round and round.”
Clinton Bennett, who runs the Family Cobbler, added: “The car parking has got ridiculous.
“We’ve got a right to be able to park up and I think this is totally wrong.
“I need my van near my shop for my tools.”
Stacey Sayers, who runs A Breath of Fresh Air vape shop, added: “We get a delivery in and because we’re quite a small business, there’s not enough staff if we have to go out to the car park and we can’t leave a car full of stock.
“We’ve tried to talk to the centre management, but they refuse to see us.”
Richard Paxton, operations director of Praxis, which runs the centre, said: “As a responsible, proactive owner and manager we are routinely required to take asset management decisions in the best interests of all stakeholders -including tenants and shoppers alike.
“In common with all shopping centres, the service areas of Castle Dene Shopping Centre are designed for loading and unloading, they are not designed to be used for long-term parking.
“A minority of tenants were in the habit of leaving their vehicles in the service areas behind Castle Dene all day and, as a result, there have been numerous occasions when delivery vehicles were unable to deliver to stores.
“This aside, there is also an obvious safety point that having delivery vehicles, cars and pedestrians in a service area is a serious accident waiting to occur.
“For these reasons we notified every occupier that parking restrictions would apply in future, and enforced.
“Appropriate signage was installed and there was a period of grace before vehicles were ticketed.
“Despite this, a very small minority of tenants decided that the parking regulations ought not to apply to them and continued to park in the service area regardless.
“To be clear, cars and delivery vehicles that are actively loading or unloading are not ticketed, but any vehicle left parked, unattended and inactive will receive a parking ticket.
“We also emphasise that parking at Castle Dene is now free of charge, so there really is absolutely no reason why tenants can’t find an appropriate place to park their vehicles, in a designated parking area.”