A one-woman campaign urging council chiefs to scrap parking charges in the borough’s town centre is continuing to gather speed.
Mother-of-two Kate Gillespie launched an online petition calling for free parking in South Shields centre and on the seafront last month.
The former South Tyneside College Marine School lecturer believes the move could help to drive up trade in King Street and bring in more visitors to the seafront.
The petition - set up at the change.org website - has already been signed by over 550 people and counting.
Traders in King Street have long argued that an offer of free parking was a way of attracting shoppers back to the struggling retail thoroughfare.
But South Tyneside Council say there are already 300 free parking spaces in the town and that profits from charges are invested back into maintaining car parks.
Mrs Gillespie, 44, of Kingsway, South Shields, said: “The support has been overwhelming.
“People have been stopping me in the street and saying this idea is well overdue.
“The support has been from people living in South Shields, people who travel into the town and from traders.
“I have also spoke to friends from across the country who say free schemes have been tried in their towns and have been a big success.
“More people will come into and then they will spend their money in the borough.”
A South Tyneside Council spokesman said: “We have over 300 free parking spaces and also introduced the Parking Refund Scheme to save shoppers money and encourage them to visit the town centre.
“The council has already removed charges and created more than 300 new free spaces across car parks at the back of Ocean Road, St Hilda’s at Crossgate and at the Customs House, which is currently underused despite being a short walk to King Street and the Market.
“Pay and display meters have also been removed in River Drive and the all-day parking fee behind Fowler Street has been reduced from £3 to £2.
“We believe our parking charges are fair and reasonable and continue to offer good value for money compared to our neighbouring towns. We have some of the lowest fees in Tyne and Wear with a penny-a-minute rate for the first hour in the majority of our car parks.
“Our charges are not set with the aim of making a profit. Any surplus money is reinvested back into road safety and highways as well as maintaining, improving and securing our car parks, 21 of which have Safer Parking Award status from the British Parking Association.”
Log on to change.org and search ‘kate gillespie’ if you want to sign the petition.