TRADERS in Northallerton have presented a petition to North Yorkshire County Council demanding changes to a parking regime they say is driving customers away.

Northallerton Business Improvement District (BID) is calling on the council to extend High Street free parking from 30 minutes to two hours amid serious concerns about declining footfall and empty shops.

According to BID, the majority of the town’s traders say the lack of free parking and over-zealous traffic wardens are causing shoppers to desert the High Street.

BID manager Graham Bell said: “This is a loud and clear message from businesses that our High Street is being unfairly discriminated against.

“There is genuine anger out there. Neighbouring towns enjoy up to two hours of free parking, whereas we have just 30 minutes. Shoppers feel rushed and businesses are suffering.

“Like every other town, we are under unprecedented pressure from changing retail habits.

“We are not prepared to stand back and let our High Street suffer.

“All we want is a level playing field with nearby towns such as Thirsk, Stokesley, Yarm and Bedale, where free parking is much more widely available.”

Barrie Mason, council assistant director for highways and transportation, said: “The current parking scheme in Northallerton’s high street was introduced to make it easier for shoppers and visitors to find a parking space.

“It was also designed to improve traffic flow through the high street, by addressing the issue of vehicles being held up while drivers looked for a parking space.

“We welcome petitions as a way for people to raise their concerns,” adding the council will respond in accordance with guidelines.