A review of car parking in Leeds city centre has sparked fears that free Sunday spaces provided by the council could be under threat.
The council is preparing to launch a consultation exercise that will help shape its future car parking strategy.
And a report to be considered by senior councillors next week recommends that a review of current Sunday and evening parking policies should be considered.
Anything that inhibits trade would be ‘detrimental’, said Mark Goldstone of the Chamber of Commerce for Leeds, which represents small and medium sized businesses.
He said: “Leeds is heavily reliant on its city centre businesses to generate jobs and prosperity.
“They in turn need to be able to employ staff from across the region.
“Anything which inhibits this would be detrimental.
“Adding additional pressure at a time when business and household budgets are already squeezed may not be the best course of action.”
Individual traders told the YEP that the end of free parking – in particular on Sundays and bank holidays – would deter shoppers.
Angela Knight, manager of Mummy & Little Me at the Corn Exchange, said: “We open seven days a week, including bank holidays and anything like this would no doubt affect us.
“Our customers are often pregnant or with young children and pushchairs.
“Some of them would find it much easier to shop on a Sunday or Monday when it is quieter and they can drive practically to our front door.”
Staff would also be affected, added Ms Knight.
She said: “I have been working in retail for quite a while.
“While a lot of staff through the week will rely on public transport, they will try and drive on a Sunday or a bank holiday.
“It’s a bit of a break for staff from the usual commute.”
Independent fashion designer Bo Carter, who has a shop in the new Central Arcade, off Briggate, agreed.
She said: “Oh my gosh – are you serious? They are thinking about doing this?
“Many people go shopping on a Sunday for that very reason – that parking is free, and it’s that little bit quieter.”
Damian Tapper, owner of Out of this World, on Vicar Lane, said: “The last thing we would want is for Sundays to be any quieter.”
The city council report points out that Leeds is one of only three of the country’s biggest cities to offer free parking on a Sunday.
It says some privately-run car parks in the city already charge on a Sunday.
The report goes on to say: “Some major retailers have informally expressed a view that the introduction of a Sunday charge would be beneficial in discouraging staff from occupying many of the available spaces, thereby increasing availability for shoppers and visitors and helping to alleviate some of the congestion problems experienced.
“However, any proposal would need to be attractive for shoppers and visitors and would need to be carefully considered.”
Coun Richard Lewis, executive member for development, said: “It is a genuine consultation. There is no hidden agenda and these are things we need to give consideration to.
“Free Sunday parking is coming under review as part of the consultation. Tweaking car parking does have an effect on the city’s economy and that has to be taken into account.”