TRADERS in Scarborough have voiced fears that shoppers could be driven out of the town to rival retail destinations in the run-up to Christmas.
Business leaders have now written to Scarborough Borough Council in a bid to introduce a longer period of free parking ahead of the festive season to entice the public to shop in the resort.
The Scarborough and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce has warned shoppers could instead travel to other locations including York and Hull unless extended free car parking is provided.
The Chamber, which has 60 members, said it is particularly keen to keep shoppers in Scarborough after learning footfall figures in the main summer months were down on the previous year.
However, senior members of the borough council have maintained that “every effort” is being made to ensure the town’s retail sector weathers the economic storm.
The council’s cabinet member for strategic planning and regeneration, Coun Derek Bastiman, stressed the high price of fuel would itself dissuade many financially-stricken households from heading to other towns and cities for shopping.
He added: “That is not holding people to ransom, it is a simple fact that the price of fuel is sky-high and people will not want to travel any great distance unless they have to.
“I am sympathetic to the views of the Chamber, and we are a progressive council – we do listen to people’s concerns.
“However, it is a balancing act, and we do need to look after the interests of the town as a whole.
“Everyone has taken an absolute battering financially in the current economic climate.
“We are making every effort to help businesses in Scarborough, and we are trying to attract new enterprise and regenerate the town centre.”
The proposed extension would mean all off-street car parks would be free after 3pm from December 1 until Christmas Eve - instead of just Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Chairman Chris Golder claimed the move would “send out a clear message” during the national economic crisis that the council and Chamber are committed to improving Scarborough’s retail sector.