DRIVERS of fuel-friendly cars could be counting the cash thanks to new parking discounts aimed at making York a "greener" city.

Senior City of York councillors were today debating proposals, which could see drivers pocket a 50 per cent parking permit discount if they drive a smaller car.

The cost of a resident's permit currently stands at £42, but the council's executive was today discussing steep price rises, that could see permit costs shoot up to as much as £104. To qualify for the saving, a car must be 2.7 metres long (about 8.9 feet) or less, about the size of a Smart car, one of the vehicles that qualifies.

Members were also today debating the use of specially-designed parking spaces to be used by the drivers of smaller cars. Drivers would hold a season ticket worth 50 per cent off their parking costs.

Coun Ann Reid, the council's executive member for planning and transport, said the discounts would begin by being based on car size.

Members would look into basing discounts on vehicle emissions at a later date, she said.

Coun Reid said: "It is the first tentative step towards recognising the benefits of more sustainable motoring.

"We are strongly in favour of this and will be looking further into ways of helping people who choose the more sustainable way."

The proposals have been "called in" by the opposition Labour group, so the group can look at them in more detail.

Labour has also called in proposals to increase car parking charges and extend city centre car parking charges until 9pm.

Derek Smallwood, shadow executive member for the environment, said: "The principle of discounts for more environmentally-friendly vehicles is fine. But we are concerned there are aspects of the parking proposals that haven't been thought through, so we want to look at them more closely."

Green councillor Andy D'Agorne said: "It is a good point to be making, a step in the right direction. My question would be where is the line drawn? What about people who drive Minis or other small hatchbacks?"

Councillors are also looking at the possibility of introducing a "green" car scheme at the York Central and new Barbican sites. One version would see a hire car company based at the sites that guaranteed to get residents a car in double-quick time.

Updated: 10:47 Tuesday, December 16, 2003