YORK businesses could withdraw support for a key city centre regeneration project if replacement car parking is not found, an industry leader has said.

Andrew Lowson, executive director of York BID (business improvement district), said the rhetoric around replacing spaces which are set to be lost at Castle Car Park had “changed dramatically”, leaving the business community “confused”.

Councillors on Thursday voted to defer a decision on whether to build a multi-storey car park on St George’s Field until summer 2023.

The council has consistently promised to replace the spaces that will be lost beside Clifford’s Tower, with plans to turn the wider area into a “a world-class public space”.

But the council’s deputy leader, Cllr Andy D’Agorne, has said the project is “dead in the water” as it is “not acceptable in any cost-benefit terms”.

Mr Lowson said: “Reading the mood music, you will understand why key businesses in the city have told me that they have no assurance that this multi-storey car park will go ahead and this will change some of their support for the Castle Gateway project.”

The failure to deliver any replacement car parking solution for Castle Car Park would see a loss of 327 spaces, according to a council report.

Parking capacity has reduced in other parts of the city, while spaces at out of town retail parks continue to increase, Mr Lowson said.

He added: “Businesses in York are not asking for increased car parking capacity, rather adequate and good quality facilities that are easy for consumers to locate.

“If this executive is not going to provide a commitment to the multi-storey car park very quickly, it needs to show the business community what the alternative is.”

Mr Lowson called on the council to invest in car park occupancy counters and to show the results in real-time on their website to “help all stakeholders better understand usage levels” and for the BID and the council to set up a working group to look more closely at the issue.

But Chris Copeland, a Labour Party member and opponent of a new car park, told councillors: “Our city is not just a shopping centre. Other stakeholders should also be returned to - heritage, tourism, conservation…and the disability lobby needs to be listened to.”

Cllr D’Agorne, who reiterated his opposition to a new car park, said delaying a decision would allow for further consultation with businesses and residents.

Cllr Nigel Ayre, executive member for finance and performance, said no decision had been made on the St George’s Field multi-storey, but added: “We have made absolutely clear our commitment to replacing parking spaces that would be lost with the closure of Castle Car Park.”

He added: “The reality is that the private motor vehicle is still the preferred – and necessary – mode of transport for many, and not just blue badge holders.”

The council’s corporate director of place, Neil Ferris, reminded councillors that ultimately it would be a political decision to make as there would be “no magic set of data that gives a clear view".