PARISH councillors say a decision to close a city centre car park next week will be a blow to businesses.

The Sands car park, in Durham, will be closed for two years from Sunday evening, so Durham County Council can start work on its new headquarters.

The county council, which was given permission for the development in March, has said the city is open for “business as usual”.

But members of the City of Durham Parish Council, who have opposed the scheme throughout the process, criticised the decision to close the 136-space car park, which is the council’s largest in the city, this summer.

Chairwoman Elizabeth Scott said: “This is really unbelievable from this county council. They are closing the most central, well used open air carpark in the city at the height of the summer tourist season.

“At the same time, they are doing away with the long stay spaces at Sidegate at a time when much of the Prince Bishop’s multi-storey carpark is closed for refurbishment.

“Where exactly do they expect visitors of the city to park?”

While it is closed, Sidegate car park, on the opposite side of the river, is becoming a short stay car park, while the adjacent coach park is moving permanently to Belmont Park and Ride, though coaches will be able to drop off in the city centre.

Dave Wafer, the council’s strategic traffic manager said the 470-space Riverwalk car park had reopened nearby.

He added: “It’s very much business as usual. We have nearly 2,000 off-street spaces , the park and ride is running as usual and we have all of our street capacity.

“In terms of visitors very little has changed.”

Parish councillor Roger Cornwell, remains unconvinced.

He said: “Aside from anything else, I know this news will come as a real blow to the many businesses we have in our city centre who rely on visitors to our city for their livelihoods.

“The county council say this is ‘very much business as usual’ but it won’t be for the many market traders who are now faced with no parking provision at all ahead of these plans being put in place, nor will it be for the many retailers we have in our city.”

Preparatory work on the headquarters is scheduled to get underway on Monday, August 12, with building work expected to start in September.

It is hoped the building, which will provide a work place for 1,000 members of staff, will be completed by September 2021.

At that point, the county council will move from its headquarters in Aykley Heads, which will allow it to be demolished to make way for a business park, which is a key part of the authority’s economic strategy – it hopes to create 6,000 jobs and boost the economy by 400m by 2040.