Jury out on free car parking at Christmas

Christmas freebie: Free Christmas parking has now started in Preston ' with a mixed response so far
Christmas freebie: Free Christmas parking has now started in Preston ' with a mixed response so far
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Free Christmas car parking is now on offer across Preston - with mixed feedback from retail bosses and shopkeepers so far.

Preston Council has made its Bus Station and Market Hall car parks free for late night shopping on Wednesday and Thursdays from 4pm, in a bid to support the high street and get as many people into the city to do their Christmas shopping as possible.

The offer began on Wednesday and from tomorrow the car parks will also be free on Sundays.

Fishergate Shopping Centre has been offering free parking from 5.30pm on Wednesday and Thursdays for the past two weeks.

Keith Mitchell, Fishergate Centre manager Keith Mitchell, said it had proved to be “very popular”.

He said: “Clearly free parking for late night shopping is of interest and it’s a win-win situation because it helps us to spread the shopping out and to avoid congestion on other days.

“I think that’s good for us, it’s good for shoppers and it’s good for the city.”

He said the centre was also offering other festive deals.

He said: “We’ve got promotional boards around the shopping centre that explain how to download an application to your mobile phone and scan various images.

“There are a number of offers available - some get you a free coffee, some get you 10 per cent off and some give you free parking.”

St George’s Shopping Centre started its free late night parking this week and is also offering free parking on Sundays.

Andrew Stringer, St George’s Shopping Centre manager, said: “I think the first couple of nights have been quiet, but to be fair this is my first year in Preston so I didn’t witness it last year.

“Today has been very busy and I expect it to pick up over the remaining three weeks.

“On Sundays it will be limited to a maximum of three hours, to allow shoppers to park, but to prevent people working in the city from parking all day.”

David Bullock, Preston Market manager, said it was too early to say whether free parking had made an impact on footfall.

However, Ellen Young, who runs the Banana Stall fruit and vegetable store in the Lower Market, said she didn’t think it would benefit traders, because of the timings involved.

She said: “We’ve been trying to get in the afternoon from 3pm.

“It doesn’t help us apart from on the Sunday before Christmas, because it only starts at 4pm here on Wednesdays and Thursdays and we close at 5.30pm, so we are winding down then you see and getting ready to clear up.

“Sunday it is free all day, but we are closed on Sundays normally, apart from the Sunday before Christmas.

“I’m sure free car parking is very good for the rest of the city, but we need more.”