SENIOR councillors have hit back against claims that a decision to build a new multi-storey car park in the city centre has already been given the green-light.

Labour councillors clashed with executive members Andy D’Agorne and Nigel Ayre after a decision to approve the council’s car parking strategic review was ‘called in’ by the opposition.

The report was designed to gather evidence on the role of car parking in the city and guide investment decisions.

Controversial plans for the St George’s Field car park were given the go-ahead by the council in January, but top councillors later decided to pause the procurement process until the impact of Covid on car parking demand had been understood.

No investment decisions were taken at last month’s executive meeting – with a decision about St George’s expected in February – but several transport academics and campaigners lined up to criticise the car park review.

Tony May, emeritus professor of transport engineering at the University of Leeds, said: “The review as it stands is seriously deficient as a basis for deciding on the proposed multi-storey car park in St George’s Field.”

Greg Marsden, a professor of transport governance at the University of Leeds, also described the document as “deficient”. 

The latest review sought to create a hierarchy of council car parks to indicate which sites are a priority for investment, with the St George’s Field car park coming top of the list.

Labour leader Pete Kilbane said: “The review has been set up to find the answers that the executive wants to hear – giving the green-light to press ahead with the St George’s Field multi-storey car park approval.”

Former councillor Johnny Hayes said the review was full of “spurious assumptions” and a “lack of knowledge about the city’s car parks”.

He added: “The brief is designed to elicit the answers the officer or executive member wanted to hear.” 

Cllr D’Agorne replied: “The reality is that this is more about political ‘building car parks’ soundbites than the grown-up decisions that face this administration.”

Cllr Ayre said the report acknowledged there were gaps in the data.

He added: “We have identified information gaps in car park usage and it’s being addressed – that was the point of the review.”

Responding to the accusation that the review would lead to poor decision making, he said: “You can’t say it’s led to poor decision making because the decision is in February.”

Speaking about the wider demand for car parking, corporate director of place Neil Ferris said:  “Unfortunately the domestic private motor vehicle is still a preferred mode of transport for lots of families across the UK and that’s been reflected as our car parks have had some the highest revenues that they’ve ever had throughout this summer.”

A vote to ask the council’s executive to look again at the review was lost before Liberal Democrat councillors then proposed a motion backing the executive’s initial decision, which was won.