Preston announces free parking for Christmas shoppers in bid to boost festive trade
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But Town Hall chiefs have announced only two of their car parks will not charge for late night shopping and on Sundays during December to entice more people into the city centre.
Other car park operators are being asked to offer the same in a bid to increase footfall for struggling shops and hospitality venues.
The initiative, led by Preston BID, has attracted thousands more shoppers into the city centre in previous years. Last December free spaces on three council-run car parks boosted numbers of visitors and helped businesses as they battled to recover from the Covid pandemic.
This year the authority is only offering the deal on two car parks - Trinity Square and Penny Street - because the temporary Tenterfield Street space used last year has now been swallowed up for the building of the £40m Animate entertainment complex.
Trinity Square, on Market Street West, has 110 spaces over two levels, while Penny Street, off North Road, can only offer 66. The city council's other car parks - the Avenham multi-storey and Hill Street, behind the Old Black Bull pub - will charge as normal to maintain an important income stream for the authority.
In a report the council, cabinet member Coun Robert Boswell explained: "The festive free parking initiative has proved hugely successful in the past, being popular with both customers and retailers alike.
"Free car parking is seen as an important part of the package of measures that are put in place to both stimulate demand for local businesses and best manage the impacts of this demand on the highway network and car park facilities.
"It is particularly important this year to support the local economy given the inflationary pressures on peoples’ budgets. However, at the same time, the City Council relies upon car parking income to support public services and therefore this should be borne in mind when considering which facilities and which periods are offered free during the Christmas season."
The report adds: "In previous years, the operators of the larger city centre car parks have offered periods of free parking during the Christmas period and these include: the St George’s Shopping Centre; the Fishergate Shopping Centre; Lancashire County Council and the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). At the time of preparing this report, the offer from other car park providers is unknown, but it is anticipated that any free parking periods will be broadly in line with previous years.”
Free parking on Trinity Square and Penny Street will be available three Sundays in December (4, 11 and 18). There will be no charge from 2pm on Saturday November 19 for the Christmas Lights Switch-on. Parking will also be free from 3pm for late night shopping on December 14, 15, 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23. Christmas Eve will be free after midday. All offers end at midnight.
The council says it expects the free parking initiative to cost it around £3,000 in lost revenue this Christmas.