Town businesses react after Hartlepool Borough Council announces free car parking funded by Tees Valley Combined Authority is ending
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Hartlepool Borough Council has announced that the scheme which sees shoppers get three hours free parking in a number of town centre car parks will end after two years on February 1.
The scheme has been funded by the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) since February 2021 to help businesses recover after Covid.
But independent traders say removing the incentive will have a “massive impact” with fears customers will go elsewhere like Teesside Park.
Sara Harvey, owner of Daisy & Beas family friendly cafe, in Villiers Street, said: "It's going to massively affect all the businesses in the town and surrounding as well.
"The council should be supporting independent businesses to try to encourage people to come in. Even if they could offer an hour free."
The council is reintroducing “free after 3pm” parking in three car parks after 3pm.
But Tom Feeney, a Labour councillor and also manager of The Arches, which is home to 12 businesses, said of the TVCA scheme ending: "It's a blow for businesses at a time when pretty much everyone is struggling.
"Local businesses still haven't recovered from Covid and it's sad to see the Tees Valley Combined Authority aren't going to be reviving this programme."
From Wednesday, February 1, pay and display parking charges will once again apply in the Westside car park behind York Road; Eastside, near Wilko; Roker Street; Middleton Grange Basement; Waldon Street; multi-storey car parks managed by the council and spaces adjacent to the King Johns Tavern.
Tony Hanson, the council’s neighbourhoods and regulatory services director, said: “We are grateful to the TVCA for funding the free parking initiative over the last two years.
“Although this scheme is now coming to an end, the council will be re-introducing ‘free after 3pm’ parking in the Eastside, Basement and Multi-Storey car parks and we will continue to offer free town centre parking on Sundays.
"In addition, we are committed to continuing our annual Christmas parking promotion which offers free parking on Saturdays in December.”
TVCA said the funding was always earmarked to last for two years.
Charges will revert to what they were before the scheme came in and vary among car parks.
Tariffs will apply to Blue Badge holders.