MOTORISTS in the region could be at serious risk from structurally unsafe car parks, the AA has revealed.

The stark warning follows major concerns raised by the National Steering Group on Multi-Storey Car Parks, made up of structural experts, who claimed that many of the country's 5,000 car parks could be in need of urgent multi-million pound repair work.

Many of the structural problems are caused by bad drainage, the weather, and salt corrosion brought in by cars.

But the AA admitted that it is not yet known how many car parks, or which ones, are structurally unsound.

A spokesman for the AA said: "The simple truth is that no one knows how many car parks are falling apart.

"It may be a small or large number, but there is every reason to believe this is a serious threat.

"The problem is a national one, but that could of course include some car parks in the North-East, which no doubt need serious scrutiny and inspection, and possible repairs."

Unlike bridges, which have to be inspected regularly and rigorously, car parks are not subject to a statutory inspection regime.

One car park in Darlington has been in need of repairs to its crash barriers and waterproofing since 1991, which has left the upper deck of the National Car Park closed.

But despite the growing time-span between recognising the fault and repairing it, a spokeswoman for London-based NCP said the public had not been put in danger.

She said: "NCP is renewing some vehicle impact barriers at the car park as part of its regular, high-quality inspection and maintenance programme.

"As the car park is presently under-utilised, we are able to close off the relevant deck for this work to be carried out.

"This activity has no relevance or connection to the guidelines for car park maintenance recently issued by the National Steering Committee for Multi-Storey Car Parks.

"The NCP sits on this committee and its guidelines are largely based on NCP procedures."