BUSINESS leaders have praised Pendle for scrapping town centre parking charges – and urged other boroughs to follow suit.

Bosses at the Forum of Private Business have held up the borough as a pioneer, for promoting a disc system for car parks in Nelson, Colne and West Craven.

The FPB is urging other councils to consider abolishing their own fees, as they set their budgets for 2013-14.

Supporters of the move say it will increase footfall in town centres – and may help to reduce the number of vacant properties.

Alex Jackman, the FPB’s policy head, said: “There are so many good reasons why all councils should be considering something along these lines.

“But first and foremost would be to help retailers through another tough trading year.

“High streets across the country are under threat and have been for many years now from the likes of out-of-town shopping centres where parking is universally free.

“Then there’s the internet and the rise of e-tailers taking an increasingly bigger slice of a shrinking consumer pie.

"It doesn’t take a genius to work out that councils charging people ever more for the privilege of coming in to their town centres to spend their hard earned cash is not the best plan to grow footfall.

“Set it against a backdrop of spiralling motoring costs and it is a recipe for disaster.”

The forum’s praise has been welcomed by Councillor Paul White, the authority’s business lead.

He said: “We pride ourselves on our support for private enterprise, and recognise that it’s a great thing for business, and encourages people to visit our local shops and services.

“We have 45 car parks in the borough and we celebrate free parking 365 days of the year. People who come to shop and enjoy our leisure facilities in Pendle often comment on it.”

The forum also praised Pendle’s record for paying private suppliers on time – it is in the top 10 of local authorities.