Park for free this weekend

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THE first in a series of events to boost Christmas trade in Banbury will begin on Saturday with the start of free car parking in the town centre.

Victorian markets, festive giveaways and candlelit concerts are among a number of promotions planned throughout December to encourage more people to spend more time and money in Banbury in the run-up to Christmas.

One of the major initiatives involves Cherwell District Council waiving fees at its car parks every Saturday, Sunday and Monday until January 7, as agreed by councillors at a meeting at the start of November.

The council’s deputy leader, Cllr George Reynolds, lead member for recreation including parking, said: “The idea is to give a boost to people who come to Banbury to park and hopefully the traders will benefit. This will hopefully help people coming into Banbury and shows our support for the town centre.”

The introduction of free parking has been welcomed by traders in the town, who are also organising their own promotions to entice shoppers to Banbury.

Barry Whitehouse, owner of The Artery in White Lion Walk and chairman of the Old Town Association which represents businesses in Parsons Street, Church Walk and Church Lane, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled about the parking as Christmas is our busiest time of year and hopefully this will boost trade.

“Although parking isn’t expensive, hopefully the money people would have spent on parking will now be spent in the shops and we are really overjoyed about that.”

As many as 20 shops in Banbury’s ‘old town’ have also signed up to a Christmas Shopping Crawl promotion. Throughout December, customers who spend at least £50 in any of the shops, either in a single transaction or combined across participating stores, will be entered into a prize draw to win a hamper full of gifts donated by supporting traders.

Shopkeepers have also given their support to a Victorian Christmas Market taking place in Banbury on December 7.

Traders will join street entertainers in dressing in period attire, people can enjoy mulled wine and roasted chestnuts and Banbury Town Crier Anthony Church will also be present.

The event has been organised by Cherwell District and Banbury Town councils and town mayor Tony Ilott said: “The councils have pulled out all of the stops this year to try to ensure trade in Banbury is as brisk as it can be. We’re looking forward to a prosperous Christmas in Banbury, especially with the retail offers.”

Mr Ilott will also be at Banbury Town Hall on Saturday for A Celebration of Christmas, a candlelit concert taking place from 6.30pm. Doors will open at 6pm ahead of an evening of Christmas songs, readings, carols and music with admission costing £5.