STRONG opposition to proposed car parking charges in Cross Hills and Bentham has led to a stay of execution.

Charges at two currently free car parks in Cross Hills, one in Bentham and one in Gargrave were expected to be approved on Tuesday by Craven District Council's decision-making policy committee.

But following impassioned pleas from traders, parish, and ward councillors, the proposals have been sent back to the council's select committee, where they will receive further scrutiny.

Policy committee chairman and council leader, Cllr Chris Knowles-Fitton, said he felt uncomfortable about pressing ahead with charging - although the plans had been recommended for approval.

He wanted clarification on cost estimates to back the proposals, which had been questioned by Glusburn ward councillor Graham Beck, and he was unhappy that Glusburn and Cross Hills Parish Council had not been given time to discuss the plans.

Earlier, councillors had heard furious traders and parish councillors complain that it had only been a year since similar proposals had been discussed and thrown out because of the impact on hard-pressed businesses.

There were also complaints that the proposals had come out of the blue and that they had been given no time to come up with a response.

In Bentham, the council was proposing charging in Grasmere Drive, close to the doctors' surgery.

Bentham town councillor Thomas Marshall said he wanted to know what had changed since the plans were rejected and confirmed the town council was totally opposed.

Mark Page, for Bentham traders, said it was not about the cost but a mindset, and if people knew they could park for free in Settle that is where they would go.

In Cross Hills, charging was proposed in Hall Street and Milligans Field.

Parish councillor Phil Baker accused the council of getting its facts and figures wrong and of pushing the charging through in secret.

He added that a Craven officer had agreed to come out and talk to the parish council, but two days after the decision was to have been made.

Cllr Graham Beck said he had questioned figures quoted by officers, but had received no response.

He pointed out businesses were in a worse situation than they had when charging was last proposed, but that the council had more in its general reserves than ever.

"This is penny pinching and money grabbing, and I can't see why we are doing it," he said.

Skipton councillor Marcia Turner pointed out that people had to pay to park in Skipton and that they were supporting villages with free parking.

Cllr Knowles-Fitton said: "There have been a number of comments about the accuracy of the information and passionate comments from the public, I think this needs further consideration."