Council promises some free parking for Hunts Christmas shoppers

SHOPPERS will get free parking in Huntingdonshire town centres in the lead-up to Christmas, but the final details have not yet been worked out, it emerged yesterday (Tuesday).

The move follows a request from business leaders for the district council to help retailers in the period of the year when some generate 40 per cent of their annual turnover.

But Councillor Darren Tysoe, the HDC cabinet member responsible for the council’s car parks, was surprised by a Liberal Democrat call this week for pre-Christmas parking concessions at a time when the question was already being investigated.

The Lib-Dems launched what they call their ‘Three 4 Free’ campaign on Monday, with Cllr. Mike Shellens saying: “We are calling on HDC to help local businesses and residents this Christmas by providing free parking at all district council car parks for the three weekends leading up to the festive season. We want to give local people every chance to support local shops and local jobs.”

The party’s Parliamentary spokesman, Martin Land, added: “By providing free parking on December 3, 4, 10, 11, 17 and 18 HDC could show their support for our market towns of St Ives, Huntingdon and St Neots in these difficult economic times. This move could encourage residents to shop locally and not on-line or in Bedford, Cambridge or Peterborough.”

Cllr Tysoe said a number of options were being studied, along with an estimate of the loss of revenue to the authority – but some free parking would definitely be made available.

“We are looking at various schemes to offer incentives to support businesses in Huntingdonshire, including completely free parking on one Saturday or a voucher scheme on the website for more than one Saturday.

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“We have to strike a balance with what we can afford. I hope to be able to make an announcement during the next couple of weeks.”

HDC’s first pre-Christmas and January sales free parking initiative was over the Christmas and New Year period of 2008/09 when shoppers were able to park free in HDC’s fee-paying car parks for up to four hours on two Saturdays.

HDC’s car parks in Ramsey are already free.