Parking will remain free at car parks in Cross Hills, Craven Council has announced.

Councillors have agreed to drop proposals to charge at some sites in the district.

A three-month-long consultation by the council’s select committee had recommended charging at car parks in Bentham, but did not support fees at car parks in Cross Hills and Embsay.

At a policy committee meeting, members argued the council should be consistent, and they decided not to pursue charging in any community car parks.

Independent councillor Philip Barrett, from Glusburn, said the council should be doing what it could to help small centres in the current economic times.

“Once these shops have gone, they will never return,” he added.

Council leader, Coun Chris Knowles-Fitton (Con), said the council could carry out a lot of expensive and time-consuming work only to have the proposals opposed by the police and, ultimately, North Yorkshire County Council.

He added it was entirely understandable each councillor would fight charging in their own wards, and he believed the modest returns from charging were not worth the divisions that could be caused.

At the start of the meeting, councillors had heard strong representations confirming opposition towards charging in Cross Hills.

Village shopkeeper, Peter Whitaker, of GE Thornton & Son in Main Street, said charging could be the last straw for businesses already struggling in the current economic climate.

Coun David Ireton (Con) said he could understand why charging was being recommended in Bentham, but not in Cross Hills or Embsay.

Coun Richard Foster (Con) said he felt sorry for struggling small retailers, but believed they faced a bigger threat from online retailers.