A LONG-STANDING trader says council parking policies in Darlington have put his business at risk and left him homeless.
Rob Metcalfe last night (July 3) confessed to putting up posters in the town accusing Darlington Borough Council of discouraging trade and creating a ghost town.
Mr Metcalfe – who runs the Claire Metcalfe florist shop on Bondgate – said he lost his temper after receiving a parking ticket.
He claims an excess of double yellow lines and lack of loading bays have resulted in fewer shoppers and businesses struggling to survive.
Mr Metcalfe revealed that he had been forced to give up his family home as a direct result of customers being driven off by “absurd” parking restrictions.
“I’m not into doing things publicly and I didn’t want to have to say I’m struggling –it’s embarrassing.
“But I have a terrible temper and I’ve lost my house. This is how desperate I am and I’m not alone.
“I’ve been here for 26 years and through three recessions but my regular customers are being put off by getting parking tickets.
“I get tickets for parking illegally but when the loading bays are full and I’m loading up for a funeral I can’t be late or that’d be game over for us.
“I work 100 hours a week and am lucky to break even. A £50 fine might take all my profit that week and if we relied solely on footfall, we’d be bankrupt.
“Bill Dixon might say we’ve got a low rate of vacant shops but I’ve lost my house while he’s making sure I can’t get customers or deliveries into my shop.”
He added: “There’s no reason to have so many yellow lines and so few loading bays, there’s no safety or congestion issues round here.
“My business and my life are going down the pan. The answer is to reverse these parking policies immediately, without bureaucracy or traders like us will not be here long enough to see results.”
Council leader Bill Dixon said: “We’re aware that parking in the borough is an issue but there are still plenty of spaces and loading bays are scattered throughout the town.
“The correct approach would be to come to the council with a constructive plan, all he’s managed to do is get other towns cheering by running this town down.
“I’m not saying the situation is ideal but there will be dialogue and discussions with business owners and we’re talking about what we can do to improve things.
“It’s regrettable when businesses go under but all the council can do is encourage people to come here to shop and in the last few years we have seen a steady increase in shoppers.
“The florist may be particularly hard hit but that maybe something to do with that particular area of trade.”