Reprieve for commuter car parks after axe-plan outcry

CAR parks in Leeds that were earmarked for closure in the New Year are to remain open at least until the summer, council bosses have revealed.

Motorists and business leaders reacted angrily when Leeds City Council revealed its plans to close the illegal long-stay car parks at Globe Road, Sweet Street, Trent Street, Ingram Street, Ingram Row and Water Lane.

But last night the council said it had suspended the enforcement action that could have resulted in the city centre car parks closing. An urgent review will now take place.

The car parks can now remain open until the review is completed and a new policy in place, in the summer of 2011.

The enforcement action, which has now been suspended, was triggered when an independent inspector ruled that the car parks were illegal as the owners did not have the necessary planning permission.

But last night the authority stressed it was committed to ensuring development is regulated through the planning process. Once the new policy is in place, following the review, any of the car parks that wish to remain open will be expected to seek and obtain planning permission in line with the new policy, the council said.

Council officers are taking on board comments from motorists that closing the car parks will cause them difficulties and add to congestion. Concerns were also raised that the closures could harm businesses.

Coun Richard Lewis, the council's executive member responsible for city development, said: "Long-stay car parking is vital for many commuters working in the city and we are keen to make sure nothing hurts the local economy, especially at a challenging economic time.

"That is why we have decided not to close the car parks, but to hold a full and comprehensive review which will take account of all the views of those concerned about this issue, the impact of car-parking provision on the local economy, the alternative public transport options available to people and the need to tackle congestion."

The review will include public consultation on an initial draft policy. Once the policy is finalised, the car parks will then be able to apply for planning permission.