PARKING perks for council staff have been slammed while nurses, patients and families at a nearby hospital face a daily struggle with transport.

Durham County Council provides more than 1,000 free parking spaces for its workers and elected members at its County Hall base, in Durham City.

But at the nearby University Hospital of North Durham bosses are considering scrapping visitor hours in an attempt to ease the ever-growing demand it faces for parking space at peak times.

“Residents are calling out for no car days in the city and we should be looking at holding one every month – we need more ways of getting people on to public transport,” said Liberal Democrat opposition Councillor Mark Wilkes.

“Some of the biggest employers in [Durham City] have out-of-date travel plans and some don’t have one at all. There’s thousands of cars parked at County Hall with no charges, directors earning £140,000-a-year paying nothing to park here while across the road [at University Hospital of North Durham] nurses pay to park.”

Cllr Wilkes was speaking at Wednesday's meeting of the council's environment and sustainable communities overview and scrutiny committee, where he also criticised the council’s ‘failure’ to tackle pollution in Durham City.

The council’s current County Hall headquarters has 1,028 parking spaces, with 117 allocated for visitors and 50 for councillors.

The base under construction at the Sands site in the city centre will have 337 parking spaces onsite and in a nearby multi-storey car park, of which 200 spaces will be set aside for staff, councillors and pool cars during working hours.

The public will be able to use the remaining 137 spaces, with more on offer to families, shoppers and visitors outside regular working hours.

The county council said it was committed to providing ‘sustainable forms of transport’ to anyone to families, workers and visitors to County Durham.

Dave Wafer, the county’s strategic traffic manager, said: “Our approach prioritises action in our most congested areas and we have an ambitious programme to improve walking, cycling, public transport and park and ride in Durham City which would see investment of up to £21million, subject to government funding.

“We do have travel plans in place for County Hall and our other strategic sites which provide staff with access to a range of information on sustainable travel options, including walking, cycling and public transport.

“An outline travel plan for our new headquarters has been approved as part of the planning process with a final version to be developed upon occupation of the building.”