COUNCIL chiefs in Leeds are planning to allow up to 3,000 cars to park on city centre sites currently classed as unauthorised.
The move comes just months after the council sparked fury when it won an appeal allowing it to take enforcement to stop long-term commuter parking at sites near Holbeck that were operating without planning permission.
City centre workers argued they would suffer if the lower-cost parking was taken away and some councillors feared the clampdown could hit the city’s economic competitiveness.
Faced with strong opposition, officials reviewed the issue and are now proposing a new “informal policy” that will allow parking on the sites for up to five years.
According to a council report, decisions granting parking permissions will be made on a “first come, first served” basis and on condition that sites are tidied up. Applicants will also have to submit a transport assessment showing their proposals will not add to congestion.
A report outlining details of the new policy will be presented to the council’s Executive Board next week. If they agree, the public will be consulted between March 31 and April 29.
Car park operators, Leeds Chamber of Commerce and bus and train companies will be among those to give their views.
The report acknowledges that major public transport initiatives such as trolleybus and park and ride have been delayed and are unlikely to go ahead soon.
It adds: “It is therefore considered that now would be the wrong time to clamp down on unauthorised commuter car parks without an appropriate mitigation strategy being in place.”
In recent years, it has been council policy to encourage short-stay parking in the city centre to support visitors and shoppers.
The report estimates the unauthorised car parks are used by 4,800 vehicles. A cap of 3,000 is proposed because there are a number of authorised long-stay spaces available in the city centre.