FURIOUS traders in Richmond have condemned council plans to sell car parking spaces for housing, saying it could sound a death-knell for the town.

The plans from Richmondshire District Council would see car parks at York Square and Station Road sold to raise funds for the council's relocation to Colburn.

Concern has already been voiced about move, which will see 300 jobs move out of the town with a negative knock-on effect on local businesses.

Under the proposals, 24 houses would be built on the Station Road car park, while the York Square site would be turned into 17 flats with car parking, 17 public parking spaces and a picnic site.

An exhibition of plans is expected to be displayed in the community office in Dundas Street on Friday, April 1, from 9am-6pm, and a public meeting to discuss implications is planned for Wednesday, April 6, at 7.30 in Richmond Town Hall.

Philip Wicks, chairman of the Richmond Business and Tourism Association, said: "We see any loss of car parking as detrimental to the interests of traders and the long-term interests of tourism and businesses in Richmond. The level of parking is already insufficient for the needs of the town.

"If more spaces are lost, the local people will be the most affected because, if regular users of the town can't park, they will be pushed elsewhere to do their shopping.

"This council does not have the long-term interests if the town at heart. These plans are financially driven, and is another indication of the way this council views Richmond and the long-term interests of the town and its people.

"We welcome a consultation exercise, but the short time-scale is very disappointing. There is not enough parking in the town, parking charges are increasing, and with any more spaces taken away, I don't know how the council expects to attract people here."

Stuart Parsons, town and district councillor and former mayor of Richmond, said: "I am shocked by the proposals. I have always been opposed to the move because I feel the council could benefit more by investing in their existing assets rather than selling them off to fund the move.

"Any housing development will take a number of years, and by that time it is completed may be too late for the local businesses.

Coun Parsons said he would listen to the views of the officers because they may have valid reasons for the plans, but said he believed the idea had not been thought through properly.

"No impact study has been ordered or carried out on the effect the move will have on Richmond, and this loss of car parking is yet another negative point for the town," said Coun Parson. "The council is supposed to be for the good of the whole shire, but rather than look at regeneration the council is bringing about the degeneration of Richmond.

"They are stripping Richmond to dress Colburn and nothing has been put in place to help Richmond survive this move.