TRANSPORT bosses looked into using fine income from York’s Lendal Bridge restrictions to cut parking charges but have been thwarted, The Press can reveal.

Dave Merrett, City of York Council’s cabinet member for transport and planning, revealed the council had explored the idea but was told it would be unlawful.

He said the news was “disappointing” but said the money would be spent on highways and transport projects.

The council has so far received £1.3 million in fines from its controversial restrictions on Lendal Bridge, which ban private traffic between 10am and 5.30pm daily, although £600,000 of that is off-set by the set-up and administration costs.

The trial began in August and by last week the council had issued 42,800 fines, of which 80 per cent have gone to non-residents.

Tourism leaders and many traders have opposed the restrictions, and there have been calls for parking charges in York to be reduced, to support city-centre businesses.

On February 1, city leaders waived charges at council-run car-parks and the move was praised by retailers.

Asked whether Lendal Bridge income could go towards lower parking prices, Coun Merrett said: “We have explored that and, legally, we cannot do it, which is disappointing.

“The legal advice is that the money can only be applied to certain schemes, involving highways and transport.”

Coun Merrett said reducing parking costs in York was a challenge and the council’s budgets were “substantially dependent” on car-parking income. Officials recently revealed this income was £250,000 below budget in 2012/13 and is expected to be £200,000 short of its target this year.

He said the free day earlier this month had been “a one-off”, but said: “It demonstrates we are continuing to look flexibly at the parking situation.

“We are more expensive than some of our regional competitors, but are very competitive with other historic cities which have constrained parking in the city-centre and constrained traffic networks.”

He said some of the money it may be used for road repairs forming part of the Reinvigorate York programme, which aims to improve key city-centre areas, although not for any changes to public places.

The Press revealed last week that week that of the 42,800 fines issued so far, 10,330 have been appealed against, including 6,564 successfully.

The trial runs until the end of February, but the restrictions will remain in place while the council assesses its impact, having said it will speed up bus journeys and cut pollution. Opponents claim it is causing congestion elsewhere and harming businesses and York’s reputation.

A council task group recently called for free evening parking for York residents from 5pm instead of 6pm, to encourage more people to come into the city-centre in the evening.