COUNCILLORS have warned their first free car parking scheme may be their last – despite traders reporting a record boost to sales as a result.
For six weeks in December and January, Cherwell District Council scrapped fees at its car parks in Banbury on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays in a bid to entice shoppers into the town centre.
Traders in Banbury’s Old Town, including Church Lane, Parsons Street and White Lion Walk, said both footfall and trade soared as a result of the free parking. But Cherwell’s deputy leader, Cllr George Reynolds, said: “Evidence suggests the scheme drew a substantial amount of visitors to the town and benefited both shoppers and traders.
“Putting on the free parking cost the council around £100,000 in lost revenue.
“This year we were largely able to offset that with Portas Plus funding provided by the Government, but there is no guarantee that similar funding will be available to us to be able to provide a similar scheme again.”
Throughout Banbury’s Old Town traders reported an increase in sales of between 20 and 30 per cent compared to the previous year and an even greater number of people visiting shops to browse. Ingrid Chandler of Chandler’s sandwich shop in Church Walk said: “On the first day of the free car parking we had our best day ever and we have been here ten years. The scheme was absolutely superb and very effective. It gave the town a real boost and it was so much busier.”
And Barry Whitehouse, chairman of Banbury’s Old Town Association which represents shops in the locality, added: “It was really good. All the traders I have spoken to reported a definite increase in footfall and trade.”