More than 3,000 people have signed a petition against plans to build housing on Tadcaster’s main car park.
Selby District Council is proposing to build 43 homes on the central area car park as part of its Local Plan, but campaigners said it would result in the loss of the “beating heart” of Tadcaster.
The council said it would not get rid of the car park without a “like-for-like” alternative, and has suggested an underground car park beneath a new town green, next to the current car park.
Patrick Tunney handed in a petition signed by 3,100 people to a meeting of Selby District Council on Tuesday.
He said: “The option to build houses on the central area car park, as it stands, is neither a feasible, viable or deliverable proposition and is not in the long term interests of the town.
“It is an essential community asset, very useful to residents, workers, shoppers, businesses and visitors.”
Mr Tunney said the car park was used for large events at the Riley Smith Hall, the town’s churches, the annual christmas market and other local celebrations and activities.
“The proposal to build an underground car park does not solve the town centre car parking needs,” he added. “It does not provide a ‘like-for-like’ alternative. It will cost too much and is going to be a civil engineering nightmare.”
Jim Jones, owner of JJ’s Tools and Workwear, wrote on the petition: “The shop I run in Tadcaster is totally dependent on my customers being able to park nearby. Closing the car park could potentially close my business.
“If the new houses are built the new residents will inherit the gift of a ghost town.”
Independent Tadcaster councillor Don Mackay said it was “one of the worst ideas ever”.
“All people are wanting is the removal of this from the Local Plan,” he added.
The plans, a framework for the growth of the Selby district until 2040, is out for public consultation until 28 October.
In total, 372 new homes are proposed for Tadcaster. Campaigners have said the council should look elsewhere for new homes.
Other sites identified by the council include 180 homes at Mill Lane and 104 homes on land north of Station Road. It is also planning to convert derelict or vacant town centre properties into around 30 new homes.
Tadcaster’s two other councillors, Conservatives Andrew Lee and Richard Sweeting, said the Local Plan consultation should be allowed to run its course.
Cllr Lee said: “I think it’s unfair to say everyone is against what is in the plan because they are not.
“I’ve spoken to people who think that the outlines for the central area and the plan as a whole for Tadcaster is ambitious. They want to see a few more details but I don’t think we should write anything off at this stage.
“Things need to be refined no doubt, but let’s see what the outcome is because we need to do something in Tadcaster – it’s been lagging behind for decades.”
Cllr Sweeting pointed out that the petition was started before all the proposals for alternative parking were published, so it was wrong to assume everyone was against the plan.