WIRRAL'S highways chief has slammed Government plans to allow drivers "grace period" on double yellow lines.

Councillor Harry Smith's comments come in the wake of communities secretary Eric Pickles' hopes to introduce the new scheme which would enable motorists to pop into a shop for 15 minutes without being hit with a hefty fine.

The plans, which were reported in the Daily Telegraph, would aim to encourage shoppers back to the high street.

Sources close to Mr Pickles told the newspaper: "The high street is in danger of shrinking or dying off, and over-aggressive parking enforcement is part of the reason why.

"If people are worried about paying a fortune in parking fines, it will make them more likely to do their shop online or go to out of town shopping centres. For too long parking has been a revenue raiser. It's time to end that.

"There is room for a deal [with the Liberal Democrats]. Dangerous parking is a menace to people, whereas if you're in the parking bay or just on the side of the road you're not presenting any risk."

However Cllr Smith branded the move as "deeply flawed."

He said: "Double yellow lines are there for safety reasons and to allow cars to park would simply undermine their purpose. The idea is deeply flawed.

"Double yellows create clarity and lack of congestion; and how is the `15 minute stop to shop` idea going to be regulated?

"A far better approach would be to encourage local councils to constantly review parking outside of shopping areas; Wirral technical services do this and a great example is on Woodchurch Rd, Prenton where a number of extra, controlled, parking places have been created by removing double yellows".

It is understood the Lib Dems believe the Tory Cabinet minister's plans could prove "unworkable" and are keen to raise the current £70 cap on fines for all illegal parking outside London.

The Government has previously issued guidance to councils encouraging them to attract shoppers by setting competitive parking charges and urging them to improve the quality of parking in town centres.

Tory local government minister Brandon Lewis said: "This Government has scrapped Whitehall rules that previously told councils to hike up parking charges, adopt draconian enforcement and impose arbitrary limits on off-street parking spaces.

"Councils now need to play their part in reining back in the overzealous culture of municipal parking enforcement.

"They should adopt a common sense approach. Ministers are considering what further steps can be taken to ensure that town hall parking policies and practices support local high streets."

However Wirral's cabinet member for regeneration Cllr Pat Hackett argued efforts should be focussed on reducing youth unemployment to boost the economy.

He said: "Instead of introducing gimmicks like this, he would be better placed to give real help with policies for growth to our struggling high streets and economy.

"By reversing the VAT hike on goods and putting people back to work like we are doing with the youth unemployment task force as part of the Liverpool City Region.

"This is on track to half youth unemployment over three years and which is putting real money into people’s pockets here on the Wirral."