A SCHEME to provide free parking in York city centre will lead to more congestion at peak times, opposition councillors have claimed.

The Greens and Liberal Democrats also say money for the project is being diverted from important measures to ease congestion in the area around the new John Lewis store at Monks Cross, and have called it in for further scrutiny.

City of York Council announced earlier this month that drivers will be able to park in eight council-owned car parks for free between 8am and 11am on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, under new plans to boost the city centre.

The move, which came just days after the council abandoned the controversial traffic ban on Lendal Bridge, was welcomed by retailers.

But opposition councillors said yesterday that while support for city centre businesses in the face of competition from the new John Lewis store at Monks Cross was welcome, the Labour administration's proposal was 'ill thought out' and would encourage more traffic on congested roads at peak times.

They also said the public should be told which measures to ease traffic congestion around the new stores would not now be provided if the money was being diverted to fund free parking, which is due to start on May 26.

Green Cllr Andy D'Agorne said "Highway officers have made clear that the limited funding for traffic mitigation around the new stores will only be spent on measure which are 'evidence based and carefully considered', yet (council leader) James Alexander is happy to take a chance on this plan with no evidence to show it is the most effective way to boost city centre trade."

But Cllr Alexander said Labour had listened to residents and businesses and had been working in partnership to introduce the free parking pilot scheme for at least six months.

"It is a shame the Liberal Democrats believe they know best and want to stop Labour from introducing such a scheme - presumably for party political spite," he said.

"They tried this same tactic to stop us reintroducing the left hand filter lane at Clifton Green and were critical of us trying to remove the purple of ftr bus off our streets after how much money they had wasted on both schemes when they ran the council."