A LOCAL authority which introduced car parking charges to one of the region’s most popular high streets to increase the number of shoppers and cut congestion looks set to reject a petition to extend free parking.

North Yorkshire County Council’s executive will next week consider the results of its review of the pay and display scheme it introduced on Northallerton High Street between South Parade and Quaker Lane in 2014.

The review follows a petition from Northallerton Business Improvement District (BID) calling to extend the 30-minute free parking limit to two hours, to bring it into line with offers in nearby towns, such as Thirsk, Stokesley, Yarm and Bedale.

Supporters of the petition, such as the Federation of Small Businesses, have described the time limit as “totally inadequate to do any shopping” under social distancing rules as customers could spend that time queuing outside one store.

Petition backers, which include 114 of the 181 occupied business premises, state firms on the High Street were struggling before the pandemic, several had gone under during lockdown, and that the rest need help to get back on their feet, with some 22 premises or 11 per cent remaining vacant.

The campaigners claim the parking regime has not arrested declining number of visitors to the town centre and has failed to improve traffic flows to enable more people to park and failed to benefit the local economy.

A review by council officers of the scheme found the number of pay and display tickets, including free ones, increased during the first three years, but had dropped off over the last two years. It also found traffic flows had remained “generally static”.

While BID has challenged the council to justify its claim the regime would improve the local economy, stating all the evidence pointed to the contrary, an officers’ report stated there were multiple external influences other than just the parking management operation affecting the economic performance of the high street.

The report states there is no clear evidence to suggest the parking charges had been been detrimental in any way and the regime was “working as intended in terms of generating turnover of spaces and parking opportunity, allowing motorists to locate a parking space without needing to make multiple trips along High Street”.

The report adds the free period was designed to cater for people dropping off or collecting goods or making a minor purchase and increasing the free period would be likely to reduce the number of people able to park on the High Street.

The document also points towards the National Travel Survey in 2018 finding that 64 per cent of shopping trips are by car, with the average shopping trip lasting just 17 minutes.

The report recommends the regime is maintained except for the section of High Street to the north of Friarage Street, where an extension of free parking time could be considered.