FEARS of parking chaos are growing as a North-East town prepares to stage its first ever cricket Test match.

Thousands of fans from across the world will descend on Chester-le-Street next week, when England take on Zimbabwe at Durham County Cricket Club's Riverside ground.

Chester-le-Street District Council has pledged not to increase charges to use its town centre car parks during the Test match, which begins on Thursday, but those imposed at the council-run car parks at the Riverside stadium will increase from about £3 to £5 a day.

There were fears that the council would implement £5 parking charges in the town centre, as signs detailing car-parking charges say it costs £5 to park there "during special events".

But the council said this notice was merely a legality.

A spokesman said: "The charge for special events allows the council flexibility to manage the car parks differently under certain conditions, such as at major public events. However, if the council wants to declare a special event, it would have to give 14 days advance notice.

"In this instance, the council has not put up such notices in the town centre, so, basically, the normal rates will apply during the Test match, apart from the council-operated car parks at the Riverside."

Retailers in the town say trade has already been hit by the loss of a car-park near North Burns, which is closed while the Tesco supermarket is being developed.

Ann Henderson, owner of The Arcade amusements and snack bar, in North Burns, said her trade had halved since the closure of the car park.

She said: "Everyone who does come in complains they can't get parked anywhere. It's a nightmare. The match might bring in a lot more business to the town, but £5 does sound a lot."

A council spokesman said they were temporarily providing regular market traders with one rent-free week for every three weeks they rented their stalls, in order to minimise impact on their trade.

He said: "The council recognises the temporary disruption caused by the construction works at North Burns. However, the works should be seen as benefiting the redevelopment plans for the town centre in the longer term."

A Riverside spokeswoman confirmed parking would be £5 per day.