Parking in Saffron Walden and Great Dunmow over the Christmas period will be free after 3pm in all council car parks, except Fairycroft Road.

The proposal for Christmas parking in the district was approved by Uttlesford District Council at a recent cabinet meeting to encourage people to stay longer in town centres and enjoy the wide range of shops and attractions.

For several years, there has been a Christmas car park promotion in all of Uttlesford’s pay and display car parks - the length of the promotion and time of day it applies has changed from year to year.

Parking will be free after 3pm in all car parks, except Fairycroft Road, from December 1-24, and free all day in all car parks from December 25 to January 1.

In addition, parking will be free in Swan Meadow car park in Saffron Walden from midday on Sunday, November 25, to support the Christmas lights switch-on event.

Parking will also be free in all Great Dunmow car parks from midday on December 1 to support their Christmas lights switch-on.

The council estimates that total lost revenue from the free Christmas parking promotion could be up to £21,000.

The district council has also initiated the purchase and installation of upgraded or replacement ticket machines at car parks across the district.

The council says all of the ticket dispensing machines in car parks it runs need to be upgraded or replaced and councillors had previously approved a budget of £92,000 for the work to be completed.

Currently, the machines only accept cash and, the council says, regularly break down and they do not provide robust data for analysis to support decision making regarding, for example, usage patterns of the car parks.

The council says there are a number of potential replacement options available from machines with card payment capability through to automatic number-plate recognition.

The procurement process has begun to seek tenders for proposals to address the shortcomings in the current system.