Northampton Borough Council is set to write off more than £660,000 in parking charges in a bid to transform the town’s fortunes as a shopping centre.
As Banbury traders continue to campaign for the introduction of free parking in Cherwell District Council car parks, Northampton councillors are taking the initiative by pushing through a proposal that would see motorists offered free parking at four multi-storey car parks for two hours every weekday and all day on Saturdays.
Sunday parking in Northampton is already free.
Northampton Borough Council said the move would cost it £664,783 in lost charges, but would encourage more people to visit the town centre – as shown by a successful trial in August last year.
Sue Roberts, chairman of Northampton BID, recently said: “This shows the town is open for business and we want people to come to us.
“Northampton is not like walking into a big warehouse. It is a traditional town centre shopping experience.”
Many Northampton traders agree with the outlook.
Jonathan Williams, managing director of Montague Jeffery, in the town’s St Giles Street, said: “I think this is a superb idea, to be welcomed.
“Anything which will bring people into a town and bring footfall back to a town centre is to be congratulated. Lots of things are happening in Northampton and the town needs to get a positive message across.”
Roy Harland, managing director of Watts the Furnishers, in the town centre’s main thoroughfare, Abington Street, said: “We have got to get back to welcoming and encouraging the car customer. If footfall and car park figures grow, you will get more retailers.”
And David Summers, editor of the Banbury Guardian’s sister title, the Northampton Chronicle & Echo, said: “Traders have been calling for free car parking for years and saw parking charges as a major hurdle to attracting more shoppers. That hurdle has now been removed. Free car parking on a Saturday is a bold move and one which is crucial if the town centre is to grow in the future.”
The introduction of free parking in Northampton will cost £382,435 for the first two hours free plan and £282,348 for free Saturday parking.
In 2012 Cherwell District Council raised £2,100,000 from parking revenue, of which £840,000 was spent on parking services.