CITY-CENTRE traders have chalked up a partial victory after persuading Bradford Council to keep the free Sunday parking at the ‘top of town’.

The authority is planning to start charging motorists a flat £1 rate to park in central Bradford’s on-street parking bays on Sundays, when it is currently free.

But Council bosses have now said they have agreed to exempt certain streets at the ‘top of town’ from the move, after hearing from people concerned it will hit an area which is already struggling.

It means Sunday parking in North Parade, Northgate, Rawson Road, Godwin Street and Darley Street is likely to remain free when the changes to parking fees in Bradford are finalised at next week’s Executive meeting.

The Bradford and District Chamber of Trade was one of the organisations which had urged the Council to think again, arguing that the ‘top of town’ needed extra support after the opening of The Broadway shopping centre down the hill.

Secretary Val Summerscales yesterday welcomed the change-of-heart.

She said: “We are absolutely delighted they have listened to some of the comments via the consultation. We feel that’s the right decision.”

Mrs Summerscales said she appreciated the Council was looking for ways to bring in more revenue, but the amount of money they would have made would have been “negligible against the backdrop of the harm it could do” by driving visitors elsewhere.

But Mrs Summerscales said it was only a “partial victory”, as there were other changes to parking fees which they had objected to, which were still likely to go ahead.

This includes extending the hours people will have to pay to park in the bays on other days of the week, as well as new pay-and-display bays being introduced at the ‘bottom of town’, in Bolton Road, Canal Road, Valley Road and Mill Street.

Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, Bradford Council’s executive member for regeneration, planning and transport, said: “The proposals, if approved, will bring the district in line with all other West Yorkshire authorities who already work on the extended hours’ basis.

“The parking charges in these nearby authorities are all above the charges levied by Bradford Council.”

Meanwhile, Bradford West MP Naz Shah is seeking assurances from council chiefs about the future of the Oastler Shopping Centre, after meeting traders there.

Angry top-of-town traders last week accused Bradford Council of incompetency as an announcement over the future of the beleaguered centre drags on.

Ms Shah said she was “absolutely committed” in her support of the market, saying: “I want to understand what the Council’s plans are regarding the Oastler Centre and to seek assurances that everything is being done that can be to support the market traders during this difficult period.”

And she said she had seen proof that the Council was not operating a “level playing field” when charging rents and rates to market traders.

Cllr Ross-Shaw said he was happy to meet with Ms Shah to discuss her concerns, and reiterated that a decision about the centre would be revealed very soon.

He said: “We know trading conditions are tough at the moment with the changes in shopping habits from the internet to the Broadway centre. I shop in the market regularly so speak to traders all the time and I know they’re desperate to find out what’s happening and we’re still on track to outline our next steps in quarter one this year.

“Obviously rent agreements are commercially sensitive contracts between ourselves and businesses but we’ve put forward a number of ways we’re trying to support traders in the past year and will continue to do so.”