A County Durham Council has defended proposals to introduce parking charges in a busy shopping town.
Drivers will have to pay £1 an hour under the plans
Traders in Grange Road and Gladstone Street in Darlington say the move will drive shoppers away from the area.
But the council says the charges are necessary because of the town's popularity as a regional shopping centre.
If approved, drivers will have to pay £1 an hour from October to park in any of 375 free spaces.
Shopkeepers in the area claim the council is unfairly targeting motorists and businesses as an extra source of income.
They say the move could lead to the closure of businesses, reducing the council's revenue.
John Buxton, the director of development at Darlington Borough Council, has denied the claims.
He said: "In the very short-term, some people will drive down the street and decide not to stop.
"But evidence from elsewhere suggests that people then start using the services that they want again.
"They are more interested about buying what they came for than putting money in a pay-and-display machine."
Mr Buxton stressed that motorists would not be limited to paying £1 for parking. He says they will also be able to buy half-hour blocks, at a cost of 50p.
He also said it is important to consider the number of shoppers that the town attracts.
He said: "Darlington isn't just a local shopping centre. It's a big sub-regional and regional shopping centre, so it's only fair that motorists should contribute towards the running of that town centre."