Free car parking will be offered to every town and city in York & North Yorkshire if Keane Duncan is elected as the region’s first mayor.

The Conservative Party candidate says he will use mayoral funds to offer up to two hours free parking in a “much-needed boost for retail and hospitality” under a one-year pilot.

The policy would be introduced in designated council-owned car parks in locations without it currently, such as York, Scarborough, Skipton, Harrogate, Pickering and Selby.

Meanwhile, free parking would be expanded by up to two hours where some free parking is already available, such as Northallerton, Thirsk and Knaresborough.



However, the free parking proposal has been attacked by Labour and Liberal Democrat opponents, noting the plans could cost millions, which would be better spent on other measures to help the high street.

Mr Duncan, a former Leader of the now defunct Ryedale District Council, says its ‘tough right now’ for town and city centres.

By working with traders on proposals he could develop a tailored offer for each area, aiming to maximise the business benefit.

York Press:

He would also work with North Yorkshire Council and City of York Council to introduce the one-year pilot and compensate them for lost car parking income.

Footfall would be monitored throughout, and the offer attuned as required, based on feedback from business owners.

Mr Duncan said: “I am confident the pilot will be a success for businesses in our towns and cities.

“If there is positive feedback from traders, and the councils can be convinced of the benefits, I hope funding can be agreed to expand the free car parking beyond the first year on a permanent basis.”

However, his Labour opponent David Skaith says the proposal would ‘cost a fortune’ and he felt there were better ways to help high streets.

The retailer of 15 years and former chair of York High Street Forum says mayoral funding would be better spent on a much broader approach, such as improving amenities like seating and public toilets, extra play areas for children and having more events and festivals.

“We should also be supporting our independent businesses by offering support and guidance, promoting them to the public and helping new businesses to come to our region, which they want to do!

“But most importantly, providing alternatives to the car such as improved bus services and Park & Ride, better coach access and improved cycling infrastructure as well as secure bike storage,” he also told the Press.

York Press: Cllr Felicity Cunliffe-Lister, the Liberal Democrat Candidate

Liberal Democrat Mayoral Candidate, Cllr Felicity Cunliffe-Lister commented: “Scratch the surface and it's not clear what the impact of this will really be.

"Does he want more cars and more emissions and more congestion? If car parks are already full, how is this going to help the residents or the high street? This is a poorly considered policy, and that's a very large chunk of the Mayoral £18M budget to spend it on.

She added: “The High Street needs regenerating and my "Heart in the Community" policy addresses all the measures that will help the retailers prosper whilst at the same time increase footfall and spend - and there's space for intelligent parking policy, but not this.”

City of York Council’s Executive Member for transport, Cllr Pete Kilbane said: “This is nothing more than a political gimmick by the Conservative Mayoral candidate.

“The proposal risks blowing more than the entire annual Mayoral budget on a single item, while choking the roads of our lovely towns and cities. It’s also an uncosted, economically illiterate policy.

“The Tories took us for mugs at the last election. We're not mugs and won’t be fooled by these empty promises.

“Keane Duncan crashed his battle bus on roads he was supposed to maintain. It now seems if elected, he’s intent on crashing the finances of the Combined Authority as well”.

The Press also approached Cllr Carl Les, the leader of North Yorkshire Council, a Conservative, for comment.