Parking in Stevenage High Street has been reduced, giving rise to concern it will have a detrimental impact on trade once businesses reopen.

Parking bays have been forfeited in favour of public seating areas - including a permanent fixture outside Costa Coffee and a temporary one on the stretch outside Wetherspoon. Parking was also lost to three bike stands in 2020.

Misya Meze & Grill has now submitted a planning application to Stevenage Borough Council to turn the parking bays outside the restaurant into a seating area, and the council says two more restaurants have plans to follow suit - with temporary barriers at first and a potential planning application later.

Business owners are worried the reduction in parking will adversely affect trade.

Sarah Deamer, of J Deamer & Son, said: "We have had a business in the Old Town for 87 years and it is becoming impossible for our customers to park. They go round and round the High Street and eventually give up and go somewhere else. Losing more parking would be a disaster for the small businesses."

Neil Bates, of Mortgage Hunters, said: "Customer flow is the life blood of the Old Town, but this will further reduce the ability for customers to visit."

Marie Etienne, of Andre Etienne Carpet and Floorcovering, added: "Should the council continue along this path, there will not be any businesses left for people to come to."

Paul Sear, a member of Stevenage Old Town Business and Community Partnership, explained: "The daytime economy relies on the convenience of the free car parking spaces in front of their shops. There are a large number of elderly and disabled people who rely on this too."

The council says surveys show the High Street parking spaces are not fully used during the day, and there is consistently capacity in the car parks - including pre-pandemic.

A spokesman said: "The council plans to actively support businesses reopening safely, with training, support and promotions. After the summer, the council will formally engage with businesses and residents to see what is working well and what can be improved as we further emerge from the pandemic."

Up to three hours free parking in the former Waitrose car park has been extended until September.