A COUNCIL'S decision to continue its town centre car parking offers despite forecasting losing more than £200,000 will leave people "doubting their commitment to the climate emergency", an opposition councillor has claimed.

In June 2018, Darlington Borough Council introduced a free two-hour parking offer in numerous long stay car parks, and the authority has also recently announced plans to start offering free parking on a Sunday.

The council plans to run the offers until at least May 2020, when a review will take place, but the authority has warned the loss of revenue from both schemes until that date will be £205,000.

Darlington Green Party say the Conservative-run council now intend to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds to encourage more car trips into Darlington, just one week after hosting a seminar to inform councillors and senior officers of the urgent action required to tackle the climate emergency.

Cllr Matthew Snedker, Green Party councillor, said: “We would rather see this money invested in supporting bus travel, improving walking and cycling routes, and making the town centre more attractive, so that people visit more often and stay for longer.

"As studies have shown, people who arrive by bus, cycle and on foot spend more in total than those who come by car and so such investment would be more beneficial for our local economy.

"Conservative councillors who spoke in favour of declaring a Climate Emergency said that they were committed to bring emissions down as low as possible, as soon as possible.

"With transport one of the biggest causes of greenhouse gas emissions, national government has set legally binding targets to cut carbon pollution and indicated that we need to make fewer car trips in the future.

"This latest move is a very expensive way to show that they are in no hurry to make the necessary plans for the future."

Cllr Paul Howell, cabinet member for leisure and local environment, said they will continue to evaluate the offers and encourage people to use the buses and cycle into town as well.

The authority is also proposing increasing the number of on-street parking spaces in the Duke Street and Imperial Quarter areas of the town, as well as refurbishing the Abbots Yard Car Park.

Free parking on Sundays is due to start on November 1 and extends to all council operated pay and display car parks, Feethams multi-storey car park and on-street pay and display parking bays, if cabinet approve the plans this week.