A leading advocate for independent businesses across Lancashire is proposing a new byelaw to enforce payment for parking at out-of-town retail parks surrounding Blackburn, Accrington and Preston.

The proposal, by Crafty Vintage, is aimed at levelling the playing field for independent town and village centre retailers, who have been struggling to compete with large supermarket chains and other retail giants located in out-of-town retail parks, such as Whitebirk, Townsmoor and Deepdale.

The byelaw is suggesting for car park charges of £2 to be introduced at all out-of-town retail parks, including large supermarkets such as Aldi, Asda and Tesco, with the funds raised from these charges invested in culture and entertainment in the town centres, providing an additional incentive for shoppers to visit local retailers.

However, Lancashire County Council and Burnley Council have said this would be hard to enforce due to not owning the land most retail parks sit on, and they would only consider a byelaw as a last resort.

A spokesperson for Crafty Vintage said: “The current trend of shopping at out-of-town retail parks has had a detrimental impact on local retailers, particularly small independent businesses.

“The convenience of these out-of-town retail parks, combined with free parking, has drawn customers away from the town centres, making it difficult for local retailers to compete. But the effects are not limited to just local businesses.

“Out of town shopping also has negative effects on the environment and society as a whole.

“Supermarkets and retail giants are known for exploiting farmers by paying them less than the actual cost of production.

"They also encourage the throwaway culture that is harmful to the environment, through fast fashion and single-use plastics.

“Additionally, the rise of out-of-town retail parks has contributed to the breakdown of community pride.

“When people shop locally, they feel a greater sense of connection to their community, and their spending supports local jobs and infrastructure.

"The decline of the high street can lead to boarded-up shops, graffiti, and a general lack of pride in the local area.”

Relaxing parking times in town centres is another aspect of Crafty Vintage's proposal.

This would allow shoppers to not worry about fines, ultimately helping small local independent businesses to retain customers.

Crafty Vintage claim the proposal has garnered support from local business leaders and has been successfully implemented in other counties.

And they say if the byelaw is approved, it could be a game-changer for local retailers across Lancashire, providing a level playing field for local businesses to compete with larger retail chains.

However, a spokesman for Lancashire County Council, said: "As a county council, we are very limited in the ways we can influence parking enforcement on private land.

"The county council has no remit regarding what landowners charge to use their land and we would not consider byelaws as a solution as these are only considered as a last resort.

"The big challenge we face in Lancashire and across the country is creating town centres that are places where people want to come, shop, dwell and spend.

"Events and activities from independent retailers such as Crafty Vintage and others help to diversify the offer and keep it exciting, different and bespoke to the demands of the customer

"If we can get the offer right then parking will become less of an issue and independent businesses will be in a much better position to compete against the major retailers."

A spokesperson for Burnley Council said as supermarkets and out of town shopping centres sit on private land, it would be down to the land owner to decide whether or not to charge a parking fee, with the council having no powers to enforce such charges.

Blackburn with Darwen Council and Hyndburn Council have yet to offer comment.