HIGHWAYS officials have admitted there is a risk of a ‘pinch point’ with a lack of parking in Darlington over the Christmas period before a new multi-storey car park is completed.

Building on the multi-storey car park at Beaumont Street is due to start in May, to replace spaces lost by the proposed cinema and leisure development on the current Feethams car park, next to the town hall.

Work on the cinema development is due to begin in September, but the multi-storey car park is not expected to be completed until May 2015, leaving an eight month gap when parking availability in the town will be reduced.

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Owen Wilson, highways officer for the council told the authority’s place scrutiny committee: “The two developments are linked. We don’t want to start the multi-storey car park until we are 100 per cent sure that the cinema development is going ahead.

“There is no reason to think it won’t but it’s a lot of money to risk if we are not sure. There will be a pinch point in November-December but we are looking at ways to get around that.”

Among the proposals for the busy Christmas shopping period is a park and ride system operating from Darlington College.

Councillor Bob Carson, member for Pierremont, said: “There is a danger that businesses could go under if it’s chaotic and no-one wants to come to Darlington for Christmas shopping.

“There are car parks that are under used at the moment – it’s a question of encouraging people to use car parks such as Kendrew Street. We need to look at better signage for the remaining car parks.”