'U-turn' on free parking in Durham
Opposition leaders who called for parking fees to be scrapped in County Durham have welcomed a move to partially back their proposals.
Durham County Council has confirmed proposals to stop charges in council car parks after 2pm every day will be debated by bosses next week.
The policy has been suggested just weeks after the local authority’s Conservative opposition group formally requested local authority parking machines be turned off completely for the whole of 2021/22 in an attempt to kickstart a post-pandemic economic recovery.
“We welcome this partial u-turn by the Labour group which, given they were [previously] queuing up to criticise free parking,” said Cllr Richard Bell, leader of the Conservative group.
“It must have been hard for them.
“However, it falls short of our proposal, which was for all-day free car parking in car parks for a full 12 months, from April 1, whereas they are going for free after 2pm for nine months and reviewing every three months.
“It’s a step in the right direction, but we will continue our campaign.”
Cllr Bell proposed scrapping parking charges completely for 12 months at a county council meeting in February to set spending plans for 2021/22.
It was hoped the move, estimated to cost £700,000, would boost visitor numbers to the county’s towns and villages.
However, while the original Conservative proposal was rejected, council bosses promised to consider the proposal as part of wider measures to increase footfall.
The modified policy is now due to be discussed when the council’s ruling cabinet on Wednesday, March 17.
Cllr Carl Marshall, cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “The last 12 months have been really tough for everyone and that businesses have suffered financially as a result of having to close for long periods.
“We want to do everything we can to support residents and businesses as we emerge from lockdown, and are therefore really pleased to be looking to introduce free parking in our town centres after 2pm.
“Improving access to town centres in this way can only be beneficial for both residents and businesses and crucially making parking free after 2pm will increase footfall at what is traditionally a quiet time; helping our economy to recover from the impacts of coronavirus.”