CALLS have been made to reintroduce free car parking to help Ryedale businesses recover after lockdown has been launched.

The move, by a group of Ryedale councillors, comes after Ryedale District Council (RDC) reintroduced charging in its nine car parks on April 1.

A council press release, issued on March 30, stated “the time is right to reintroduce parking charges” after almost four-months of unlimited free car parking.

But Conservative councillor Keane Duncan said he feels the decision to do so, before non-essential retail and hospitality businesses reopen, was “extremely misjudged”.

He has proposed a motion, seconded by Helmsley councillor Steve Arnold, to the next full council meeting calling on the council’s administration to extend free car parking until at least May 27, when it will be reviewed again.

Councillor Keane Duncan, who represents Norton, said: “A lot has changed since councillors came together, cross-party, to agree to the four months of free parking back in December.

“No one could have predicted then that we would have been plunged into yet another lockdown in January. It forced many businesses to shut throughout most of the free car parking offer, denying them the chance to benefit and defeating our original aim.

Cllr Duncan added: “Given many businesses are still closed, and won’t reopen until April 12, it came as a surprise to many residents and businesses that the charges would resume as planned on April 1.

"It feels extremely misjudged for there to be no flexibility given the current situation.

Cllr Keane said: “If the aim was to help out our traders in December, then we should want to help them now too, when they arguably need even greater assistance than before.

“That’s why we are calling on the council’s administration to extend the free car parking for several more weeks, to help attract custom and boost trade in our town centres. The short-term extension would be a much-needed helping hand right now.”

The Council has nine short and long stay car parks at locations across the district, including Kirkbymoorside, Malton, Pickering, Helmsley and Norton.

Car parks were made free of charge to all users from December 9 2020. The charges were reintroduced on April 1.

A spokesperson for RDC said a motion would be discussed at a meeting of the full council on April l5.

* Your views on car park charges - see letters page 12.