AN MP fears parking restrictions imposed by town centre bosses could drive trade and businesses away.
Easington MP Grahame Morris has hit out at a three-hour maximum stay introduced by Salford Estates, owners of Castle Dene Shopping Centre, in Peterlee.
Mr Morris, who himself had to pay a £60 fine after over-staying in a town centre car park to attend a meeting at Peterlee Methodist Church opposite the centre, is calling for Salford Estates’ holding company, Praxis, to review its policy.
But Salford Estates have hit back, claiming Mr Morris’s comments have been made in “spite” as the company refused to waive his parking fine.
They say businesses asked for the restrictions to stop people abusing the car parks.
Mr Morris said the maximum stay was particularly affecting town centre workers who must stay beyond three hours.
He added that those wanting to stay more than three hours must buy a £600 annual permit and claimed Praxis has ignored calls from town centre staff to consider permits for part-time workers.
Mr Morris denied making his comments in “spite” and said he made a “reasonable request” to Praxis as he was on Parliamentary business at the church.
He added he was fined a further £20 for not paying within 14 days after writing to appeal.
Mr Morris said: “This situation is outrageous.
“I have been contacted by a number of town centre staff who have been under the threat of a fine since Praxis Holdings took over the management of Peterlee car parks.
“The three-hour maximum stay, and two hours in some car parks, is driving customers out of Peterlee town centre and is acting as a significant disincentive for customers to use local cafes, restaurants and bars.
“I am greatly concerned for those part-time workers, many on minimum wage, facing pay freezes, and the rising cost of living who have now had their finances further burdened by the inflexible and unhelpful position taken by the town centre owners.”
But a Salford Estates spokeswoman said: “Mr Morris’s comments are an act of pure spite because we refused to waive his parking fine.
“He wrote to us demanding that an exception be made for him which was refused.
“Mr Morris is oblivious to the commercial realities faced by real businesses fighting hard to survive in the current climate.
“For the record, the new car parking scheme was introduced at the behest of Castle Dene’s shopkeepers as the centre’s car parks were being misused by people who, like Mr Morris, were not shopping there.
“As an example, office workers from local businesses parked all day in the shoppers’ car parks, and shopkeepers, who pay for the upkeep of the car park, felt that this was unfair.
“They were rightly concerned that having non-shoppers parking in the centre’s car park was preventing genuine shoppers from parking and was therefore impacting on their trade.”
The move has seen the lower level below Asda’s car park have a two-hour maximum stay and the car parks near Aldi, Hailsham Place, Wilkinsons rooftop and parking near to health centre and Post Office bays have three-hour restrictions.