Parking doesn't seem fair. On the one hand you've got out-of-town shopping centres with their massive free-to-use car parks, while on the other there are high streets and other built-up areas where parking for shoppers is severely restricted. According to the Department for Transport, it's simple the developers of the out-of-town shopping centres have bought their land and if they use it to offer free parking, it's up to them. But parking on public highways is a different matter and so has to be managed by councils who in turn manage demand.

Whatever the reasoning, there's no doubt that free parking at the big supermarkets and shopping centres attracts shoppers, while having to drive around in search of a space and paying for it puts them off.

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) says: "Effective and well thought out car parking is essential to maintaining diverse high streets." Chief executive James Lowman adds: "Over the past few years, over-zealous local authorities have made car parking highly restricted in many high streets across the country, meaning local shopping areas are now less accessible to many.

"Planning Policy Statement 4 was consulted on in 2008 and included a provision to remove maximum car parking places in out-of-town shopping centres. Giving out-of-town shopping centres this unlimited amount of parking, coupled with poor town centre parking, will drive consumers away from high streets. This is damaging to those who are highly reliant on town centres, such as single parent families and the elderly.

"The ACS will continue to campaign for effective and consistent car parking policy."

And the ACS is not the only body taking a stand on parking. The Federation of Small Businesses is also fighting for a fairer position. Spokesman Stephen Alambritis comments: "The luxury of parking is the remit of supermarkets. People drive to supermarkets knowing they will be able to park easily for free and load their shopping into their car. But it's a case of 'yes' to parking for supermarkets and 'no' to convenience stores.

"We estimate that c-stores are losing 20-30% of their business because of red routes, double yellow lines, other parking restrictions and fear of parking fines.

"Through our Keep Trade Local campaign we are trying to get local councils to suspend parking restrictions because money spent locally stays local. For every £1 spent locally, 70p stays in the local vicinity."

Both Lowman and Alambritis highlight another problem where stores have parking bays but some people park there for the whole day. Says Lowman: "Having half-hour parking slots available would free up the space for shoppers and prevent commuters parking in these spaces all day."

Meanwhile, a story in the Birmingham Mail last summer highlighted the problems traders have with parking. It reported: "Angry small shopkeepers say that new double yellow lines and parking restrictions outside their parade have scared off customers".

The stores affected are in a parade on the corner of Queslett Road and Beacon Road in Great Barr. There had been single yellow lines on the road, but overnight they were replaced with double yellows. To make matters worse, all the retailers were losing trade because of a big new Asda 500 yards away.

A campaign, led by Warwick Wakefield of Warwick Butcher's, was started with the backing of 1,500 customers who signed petitions opposing the restrictions.

Kully Tiwana, who owns Beacon News on the parade, says: "The situation is terrible; it has really affected my trade. We're on a busy junction so having parking is important. The single yellow lines had a two-hour parking limit so that was fine. Now plenty of customers have got parking tickets and it's put them off coming here."

However, Kully is not alone across the UK retailers are facing parking problems. John Mitchell has two Spar stores in Fife one in Ceres and one in Leuchars. Ten years ago he added a car park to the Ceres store and two years ago was forced to spend more than £10,000 on extending it and adding white lines to create designated spaces.

He says: "In Ceres our store is right in the middle of a conservation area and desperately needed tidying up. That's one of the reasons why we sorted out the car park. We now have 26 spaces behind the shop that get used all the time.

"We were losing spaces because of how badly people were parking so I went to Tesco and measured their spaces. Now no one parks outside the designated spaces.

"We're not a big store about 2,000sq ft and in a rural area, but parking was an issue."

Out of line

Further south, Mandeep Singh is in the process of applying for a drop curb outside his Premier store in Herries Road, Sheffield.

He says: "People park around the corner or take a chance and stop on double yellow lines. If we get the drop curb, we'll have room for eight parking spaces outside. However, it's a lot more complicated than you'd imagine. Booker is helping us put everything together. I reckon it could cost as much as £10,000, but it will definitely be worth it."

Paul Cheema, who has a Costcutter store in Coventry, knows all about parking headaches. His store is within a parade and local residents had complained about others parking in the area. The local council's answer was to put in a higher kerb to prevent people parking, but Paul says it has made the situation worse.

"Before the higher kerb went in, people pulled up onto the pavement and parked half on the road, half on the pavement. Now they park on the road, on the double yellow lines.

"We all offered to give up our forecourts so the council could create proper parking for 40 cars, but they were worried about being liable for cars pulling in and out of spaces and possibly causing accidents. They did offer to give me a dropped kerb, but it would have meant that I would be liable for any accidents.

"We had a meeting and my local MP backed me, but the council would not listen. They spent £750,000 'improving' the junction, but only made the problem worse."

Finally, retailer Daniel Wilson's dealings with his local council had two different outcomes. He has three stores in Scarborough. His local councillor helped him get parking for his store and others on the parade in North Leas. However. he wasn't so lucky at his other store, The Sands.

"It's another story at The Sands. We have double yellow lines outside and approached the council about parking, but were turned down. We will try again."

When it comes to parking issues it seems there are no cut and dried procedures. Different councils have different approaches. If you have a problem, the only thing to do is get your local councillor on your side. Invite him or her round to see the problem first hand and go from there. Good luck.