DUDLEY Council's leader has hit back at claims that he has been "whining" about the new owners of Merry Hill's decision to maintain free parking.
The claim came from UKIP’s leader in Dudley and Halesowen, Bill Etheridge, who said Councillor David Sparks has "no idea about business and what helps commerce in his area".
His comments follow Intu Properties’ announcement that there are no plans to charge motorists to use the car parks at the Brierley Hill centre, which attracts 25 million customer visits a year.
Mr Etheridge added: "Maybe if Councillor Sparks understood business at all he would be following suit and introducing more free parking in Dudley shopping areas rather than whining when he looks up the road at the success of the Merry Hill centre."
But cllr Sparks has branded the claims "inaccurate" and parking charges would only be an issue if the centre wished to expand.
He added: "Clearly Bill Etheridge hasn't got a clue what he is on about when it comes to car parking at Merry Hill. For him or anyone else to say that I am personally whining about Merry Hill is inaccurate to the point of slander."
He explained: "The legal position in relation to Merry Hill and car parking is that whoever owns Merry Hill is subject to conditions that were placed on any expansion of the retail space.
"These conditions were the result of pressure by surrounding local authorities and also lobbying by other shopping centres in the borough.
"Specifically, any expansion of retail space, beyond the permissions that have already been given, will automatically trigger the proviso that the expansion is accompanied by parking charges."