Many councils and private car parks may see fees ditched in the days and weeks ahead of Christmas to encourage motorists to shop. The AA claims free parking from 14 December onwards would “revive” the fortunes of “beleaguered shops and street traders”.
Edmund King, AA President, said free parking had been used in the past and a similar scheme was needed “now more than ever”.
He said: “Various parts of the country have #ShopLocal campaigns as they are petrified that niche local stores will be put out of business by online retail and lockdowns.
“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.”
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Copeland Council has brought forward free parking plans with costs slashed from the 5 November until the start of January.
They say this is to help “critical town centre businesses during the festive period and to help NHS workers”.
Peter O’Driscoll, CEO of private parking firm Ring Go has warned any free parking would be dependent on the current state of the country.
He warned that councils in areas with tougher restrictions in the run-up to Christmas would be more likely to reduce rates when lockdowns eventually eased.
However, the changes could have very effective personal health benefits as motorists desperately avoid the coronavirus over the winter.
Mr King has claimed free parking would lead to “better social distancing” as otherwise drivers would be forced to get close to each other at pay and display machines.
Mr King added: “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.”