A COUNCIL which has faced repeated criticism over the parking charges it levies in town centres has revealed it will consider extending a smart parking system where people pay per minute.

North Yorkshire County Council’s executive heard such had been the success of the AppyParking pilot scheme in Harrogate town centre - the first of its kind in the UK - that the authority would look to introducing similar schemes elsewhere in the county, such as Northallerton, to improve shopping experiences.

Users who download the AppyParking app get real-time availability of spaces across Harrogate town centre and can navigate to the space and pay for a parking session with a single-click.

Instead of pre-paying in half hour or hourly increments at the machine, users of the app benefit from ‘linear pricing’.

The normal rules and tariffs at the chosen location apply, but beyond the minimum stay, typically 30 minutes on-street and one-hour in car parks, app users pay per minute.

The ambition was announced as the authority defended its parking policy in Northallerton as the town’s Business Improvement District said firms in the town centre which features many on-street parking spaces wanted “a level playing field” with traders in Thirsk, Bedale and Stokesley.

Guy Barker, a director of Barkers department store, welcomed the council’s extension of one hours’ free parking until the end of March, but said firms had been disappointed by the lack of a proposed permanent solution to the issue.

He said: “Thirty minutes is simply not lot long enough. Survey after survey tells us shoppers feel rushed and prefer to take their custom to neighbouring towns where there is more generous free parking.

“Now more than ever when many businesses are facing an uncertain future we need support and intelligent leadership to make it as easy as possible to park in Northallerton and enjoy everything our town has to offer.”

However, the meeting was told the council wanted those seeking to enjoy a lengthier shopping experience to park in car parks.

Councillors heard the council’s policy to charge for on-street parking helped remove “the clutter of cars from high streets” and so it had to make on-street parking more expensive than parking elsewhere, such as car parks.

Councillor Don Mackenzie said the authority was being attacked for carrying out its duties to tackle congestion and enforce parking. He highlighted that any surplus funds generated from parking charges were plough back into the community to pay for concessionary fares and subsidise bus journeys.

He said the extension of one hour free parking in Northallerton had recognised the tough trading conditions being experienced during the pandemic.

Cllr Mackenzie said it would be wrong to make Northallerton an exception. He said: “What do we say then to businesses in Harrogate, where people have to pay for parking from the moment they arrive at a parking space, or indeed Scarborough or Whitby or other areas of North Yorkshire where we do make charges for on-street parking?”