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Free parking urged in run-up to Christmas to boost high streets

By Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent
·2-min read

Parking charges should be scrapped over Christmas to boost high streets and stop drivers clustering around ticket machines, a motoring organisation has claimed.

The AA believes free parking from December 14 would help revive “beleaguered shops and street traders” amid the rise in online transactions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It also warned that measures to ensure social distancing in stores “often fall down” as shoppers gather around ticket machines to pay for their parking.

Although many councils encourage drivers to make payments through mobile apps, some motorists are put off by extra charges and difficulties using the technology.

AA president Edmund King said: “Free parking periods at Christmas have been used in the past by councils and shopping centres to tempt customers into the high streets and shopping centres.

“The AA believes that, now more than ever, the hours and free parking locations should be extended.

“With fewer shoppers and some avoiding public transport, opening up free parking would also allow better social distancing instead of ticket machines becoming the Achilles heel of attempts by stores, councils and shopping centre managers to space out and protect visitors.

“This has been made worse by ticket machines becoming more complicated by requiring vehicle registration numbers as well as credit card details. Also, queuing is often a problem as ticket machines are often located where shoppers are squeezed at car park entrances or close to toilets.

“Let us hope free parking can banish the Scrooge mentality and spread joy to the shopkeepers.”

David Renard, transport spokesman for the Local Government Association, said: “Councils continue to work all day and night to support communities through the Covid-19 crisis and have responded flexibly to changing demand for parking spaces.

“With high streets and town centres reopening for the festive period, demand for parking spaces will be returning back to normal levels in many places.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution. As before the pandemic, councils will set charges to reflect local circumstances, including supporting high streets and town centre businesses.

“Councils will also be considering capacity and social distancing issues in their local car parks as people visit town centres.”