FREE parking will be launched in York on June 19 - more than three weeks later than originally planned after opposition councillors challenged the decision.

City of York Council originally intended to begin a pilot project, allowing residents and visitors to use several city centre car parks for free on three mornings a week, next week.

But preparations for the scheme, including technical changes to the pay and display machines, had to be put on hold after Green and Liberal Democrat councillors called in the proposal for scrutiny at a meeting earlier this week.

Green group leader Andy D’Agorne questioned the authority's decision to use £300,000 from the developers of the Vangarde John Lewis site, received through a section 106 agreement as part of their planning permission, to fund the initiative.

He claimed a council report had failed to identify the likely impact on city centre congestion and other council car parks, and to identify which traffic schemes near the new retail centre would be dropped to pay for it.

"The money could have been used to fund a free shuttle bus service," he said, adding that proposals which could be dropped to fund the free parking included better public transport from Haxby/Wiggington to the Vangarde site.

Council leader James Alexander said the £300,000 had not been previously assigned to any particular project at Monks Cross, said the project had been launched in response to pleas from city centre businesses and spoke of his frustration that it was now being delayed for several weeks because of the opposition councillors' actions. But Liberal Democrat Ian Cuthbertson strongly defended their right to scrutinise decisions by the council's cabinet.

Darren Richardson, director of City and Environmental Services, revealed that Marks & Spencer had decided to open its Pavement store an hour earlier at 8am on the days of the free parking, and said the scheme would be advertised in The Press, on radio and through signs.

*Under the scheme, residents and visitors will be able to park for free in eight car parks - Nunnery Lane, Bishopthorpe Road, Castle Mills, Foss Bank, Marygate, Monk Bar, St George’s and Union Terrace - between 8am and 11am on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.