BUSINESS leaders have given their backing to a free car parking scheme in all town centre car parks on Saturday’s in the run-up to Christmas.
Hartlepool Borough Council is behind the initiative which civic leaders say is designed to encourage people to shop and spend their money in the town.
Shoppers already benefit from free parking on Sundays all-year round in town centre car parks, but they will now also be able to park for free on Saturday 7, 14 and 21 of December.
Mark Rycraft, manager of Middleton Grange Shopping Centre, said: “We are really pleased with this decision. Free parking on Saturdays in the run-up to Christmas compliments the free parking provision on Sundays.”
Ian Walker, Specsavers director, added: “This is excellent news. It shows the council are supporting both the shopping centre and the shoppers too.”
Meanwhile, Ray Priestman, chairman of the town’s Economic Regeneration Forum, added: “The free car parking scheme is a great idea and support like this is so important for small businesses in and around the town centre at such a crucial time of year.”
The free parking initiative also includes all car parks and on-street parking in the Church Street area, the Transport Interchange and Mill House Leisure Centre.
The decision was taken by the council’s neighbourhood services committee, chaired by Labour councillor Peter Jackson.
The plans were agreed despite warnings from officers that it will mean a drop of income of around £18,000.
Coun Jackson said: “Car parking charges are a factor that people consider when deciding where to shop and we hope that by suspending all parking charges during weekends in December will encourage both residents and people outside the town to do their Christmas shopping in Hartlepool.”
For more than two years motorists have also been able to park free in many town centre car parks after 4pm on weekdays as part of a similar initiative.
Middleton Grange Shopping Centre will stay open until 8pm on 19th, 20th, 21st and 23rd of December.