Biggleswade Town Council is giving shoppers a special Christmas parking present in a bid to boost trade and business this festive season.
The council is lifting parking restrictions on Saturdays during November and December, meaning residents will be able to leave vehicles for free whilst they browse for festive treats.
The move is to support the town centre and markets in the run-up to Christmas, with more shoppers hoped to add “vibrancy” to the high street.
Biggleswade Town Councillor for Stratton Ward, Mark Knight, said: “The trial will hopefully be an incentive for people to come into the town centre - parking is free at the retail park - so hopefully this will provide extra encouragement.
“I expect there to be fewer commuters on a Saturday, so my hope is that this change will work on Saturday in the same way it already does with free parking on Sunday.
“I’m eager to see if the theory that Saturday can be treated in the same way works and keen to see what the community thinks of the trial at the end of the year, too.”
The town council formed a working group, of which Cllr Knight was a part, to examine car parking in the town, and met in July and October.
The recommendation from the working group to provide free Saturday parking was tabled and approved at a full council meeting on October 22.
Cllr Knight added: “It was unanimously supported.
“The working group were also keen to engage with the community – commuters, residents, shop keepers – and the real challenge is finding enough parking spaces in the town. I know the town council is looking for more sites for more parking spaces.
“But hopefully, without the commuters there on Saturday, there will be more empty spaces to fill. However, if there’s too much congestion it might not be something we can support permanently.”
The free Saturday parking is at all town council-operated car parks: Dan Albone, White Hart, Mill Lane, St Andrews, Chestnut Avenue and Rose Lane.
David Gunns, proprietor of Gunns Bakery, in Hitchin Street, said: “I think it’s a really good idea; anything that makes it more easier and more attractive for people to come into the town centre.
“I think it has been affected by so much going on in the outskirts. We could still do with a wider variety of stores in the town and perhaps better links between the town and retail park, but this is a step in the right direction.”
A Biggleswade Town Council spokesman, said: “The town centre has a tremendous mix of independent retail, service and hospitality offerings, which give our market town centre a unique identity, attracting visitors and supporting businesses and employment.
“However there have previously been external factors that have given businesses cause for concern during their busiest trading times at Christmas. Residents will no doubt recall, for example, essential roadworks in previous years on Shortmead Street and the High Street.
“To support the vibrancy of the town centre and the markets in the run-up to Christmas, in addition to providing the Christmas lights and events, the Town Council has resolved to trial lifting the restrictions for Saturday parking during November and December.
“Our current parking management has been in operation since August 2018 and, as with all of our services, is closely monitored.
“Since the scheme was introduced, spaces that had been blocked all day have now been freed up to allow access by visitors and users of the town centre shops, facilities and services.
“The scheme was introduced with one-hour free parking in all car parks, with a small fee starting at £1 for two hours, rising to a maximum of £2.50 for up to six hours in the Rose Lane Car Park or nine hours in the Dan Albone Car Park.
“We have invested heavily in our car parks to improve their condition and incur annual costs, including paying to lease the Rose Lane car park. Income from pay and display helps to offset some of these annual costs.
“The scheme has seen a significant increase in the number of people parking for short to medium length durations and more than three quarters of all pay and display tickets issued have been free of charge.”