CONSERVATIVES on Bradford Council will call for parking charges to be scrapped in a bid to boost flagging high streets.

At a meeting of the Council next Tuesday, the leader of the Conservative party will put forward a motion calling for officers to look at ways parking in Bradford, and the district's towns and villages, could be discounted or scrapped altogether.

Councillor John Pennington believes that the "unprecedented competition" facing high street shops, mainly from online retailers, meant more needed to be done to encourage people to visit local businesses.

He believes that shoppers should be able to park in car parks and on street parking spaces nearest shops for free, but that such spaces should have two hour maximum parking restrictions.

Other car parks could be set aside for staff from businesses.

Cllr Pennington will point out the pressures on high street businesses, and how this has led to many areas being plagued by empty shops.

The motion says: "The Council resolves to require the Director of Place to undertake a feasibility study regarding the provision of a variety of free and discounted parking schemes for shoppers across the district, and for the detailed, costed alternatives to be provided for consideration by the council at a Council meeting within six months.

Later today the Council's decision making Executive will discuss plans to introduce new parking restrictions in Ilkley, including pay and display parking on some town centre streets.

Last Summer the Executive approved plans to introduce evening and Sunday charges to a number of Bingley car parks, charges to park at St Ives Estate in Bingley and the removal of a 30 minutes free period in Wilsden car parks.

Cllr Pennington said: "Bradford Council should listen to what other Councils are doing and remove parking charges, or certainly reduce them.

"We want free parking full stop, but to limit it to two hours. No-one seems to see the bigger picture, if you allow people to park near a shop then that could be a new customer for that shop. This would benefit local traders and the local economy."

Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, Bradford Council's Executive Member for Regeneration, Planning and Transport, said: “I agree with the motion where it states that the high street is going through unprecedented change, and we’ve been taking action on this for some time. It’s too simplistic to say that cheaper parking would make any major difference when online shopping is increasing so rapidly and expected to reach half of all retail sales within a decade.

“The nature of our high street is changing and we have to adapt to that. It’s why we’ve consulted on relaxing planning rules around changing the use of some of the existing retail units and recently announced plans to demolish some unoccupied buildings to create a new public square on Darley Street as part of our markets regeneration project.

“Parking across Bradford district is among the cheapest not just in West Yorkshire but the whole country. We’re currently consulting on changes to some charges that haven’t changed in around ten years and I would encourage people to send in any comments to our consultation process where it will be looked at by the Council Executive.”

The full Council meets at 4pm next Tuesday.