TRADERS in the Skinnergate area of Darlington are pleading with the council to re-introduce on-street parking - as they say a lack of shoppers is killing business.

Around a dozen shops on the street have closed down in the last year and many remaining traders say they are struggling to stay afloat.

Derek Risbey of Risbeys photographers is among those who believe the lack of parking on the street is a major factor in its demise.

Loading article content

He says that when Skinnergate was pedestrianised in the late 1990's there were more shoppers visiting but it is no longer busy enough to warrant pedestrianisation and its distance from car parks puts it at a disadvantage to the rest of the town centre.

“About 18-months-ago we did a survey of all the traders along Skinnergate, the yards, Blackwellgate and High Row and they all seemed to say that having parking along Skinnergate was a good idea and they wanted it," he said.

“We gave that to the council and felt that was surely strong enough to get the message across that this is what they should do.

“They (the council) even said it was a good idea but we have heard nothing since.”

Patrice Burns of Heavenly Scent florists said she would like Skinnergate parking to mirror the pay and display bays along nearby Duke Street and Grange Road which would in turn boost council revenue.

Mark Stewart of Pizza Express said his lunchtime trade is affected by a lack of parking because workers who only have an hour to spare do not want to have to search for a space.

Other shop owners also pointed out that without parking there is no vehicular access to Skinnergate for the disabled.

Sue Carpenter of Footprints Christian bookshop summed up the feeling of some traders, saying: “It is well past crisis point and if the council delays this decision any more, how many of our businesses will still be here?”

A spokesperson for Darlington Borough Council said they have listened to retailers but the desire to have on-street parking was not a view held by all.

She added: “This forms part of the consultation on the Council’s Parking Strategy and we have had other views and ideas expressed.

“We are reflecting the need to investigate regeneration options for Skinnergate in the parking strategy.

“The council and Distinct Darlington is planning a town centre conference to consider how Darlington town centre should adapt to reflect the changing nature of retail and continue to have a vibrant town centre.”