DEMAND for car parking in Darlington will rocket in the coming years, if planned town centre developments go ahead, experts have warned.

Darlington Borough Council is working on a parking strategy for 2014 to 2026.

The strategy, which is still at the draft stage, was debated by members of the council’s place scrutiny committee on Thursday (April 18).

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John Anderson, the council’s assistant director of regeneration, planning and transport, gave a presentation to members detailing the progress made in compiling the draft strategy.

A completed proposal will go before the cabinet in the summer, before detailed consultation is carried out.

Mr Anderson said demand for town centre parking is predicted to rise by 27 per cent by 2020, if planned town centre regeneration projects, such as the £30m Feethams cinema and hotel development, proceed to completion.

The would require the creation of hundreds of extra parking spaces and members discussed the possibility of a multi-storey car park being built to cope with the increased demand.

Scrutiny chairwoman Councillor Dorothy Long said it was important that any multi-storey car park was as attractive as possible in its design.

Mr Anderson said: “There is currently sufficient parking to satisfy demand.

“There are some hot-spots where there is a high demand, there is an over demand for car parks closer to the shopping areas.”

Mr Anderson outlined some of the key challenges faced by officers compiling the strategy, such as how the parking facilities contribute to the town’s economy and what methods of payment are offered to customers.

He added: “Parking is one of those subjects where everyone will have an opinion and it is about trying to get the balance right.

“The issues that are emerging in terms of feedback from businesses and residents is pricing policy, particularly on the back of well-publicised decisions in Middlesbrough to offer some free parking.

“Many businesses in Darlington are arguing for free parking.”

Mr Anderson said the draft strategy was not likely to recommend changing the tariffs at the town’s council run car parks, but there may be room for ‘tweaking’ waiting restrictions.

Coun Long added: “Parking is a complicated issue and it is difficult to know how people will react to changes.

“We want to be flexible and prepared to try different approaches.”