Free evening and weekend parking to start this weekend in Great Yarmouth town centre

Free evening and weekend parking to start this weekend in Great Yarmouth town centre

Shoppers will soon be able to park for free at weekends in Great Yarmouth’s “fragile” town centre as the borough council trials whether or not the measure helps to boost footfall, trade and the local economy.

The six-month trial starts on Saturday, October 3 and runs until March 31 at six car parks in Great Yarmouth which are the most empty during the winter: Fullers Hill, Brewery Plain, Stonecutters Way, George Street, Greyfriars Way and King Street.

In addition to the trial, the borough council has decided to remove, from October, the year-round overnight charge for all town centre pay and display car parks. This effectively means that free parking at the six locations during the trial starts at 4pm on Friday and ends at 8am on Monday.

The extra incentives, proposed by the cross-party Town Centre Initiative working group, are part of the borough council’s Town Centre Initiative, launched in spring in response to a major borough-wide consultation last year, which identifies as top public priorities the town centre, economic development and regeneration.

Cllr Graham Plant, the council leader, approved both schemes as a single member decision after they were discussed at the full council meeting on Tuesday, September 22.

During the trial, the borough council will monitor sales and footfall data, the occupancy of empty retail units, and conduct a survey of shoppers. Businesses will also be encouraged to work with the borough council to develop their own incentives to take maximum advantage.

This could include organising additional evening or weekend events, such as specialist markets, which would attract more people into the town centre and also give businesses the opportunity to extend their opening hours.

If free parking is successful, the borough council will work with businesses and the town centre partnership to find ways to continue the scheme by covering the £70,800 forecast reduction in car parking income, which would otherwise be used to support council services. In 2015/16, the borough council is covering this from the Town Centre Initiative.

The removal of the overnight charge is forecast to reduce annual income by a further £21,000, which will be covered through existing budgets.

Cllr Graham Plant, the council leader, said: “These additional parking incentives are part of the borough council’s enhanced efforts to strengthen the town centre, and make it more attractive for residents, tourists and investors.

“During 2015, the Town Centre Initiative has also included enhanced events, better marketing and visual improvements, as well as a consultation to develop a masterplan to help shape a clearer future for the town centre.

“Retailers often say that parking charges are a barrier to town centre footfall, which impacts on the potential to improve the area’s economy. There is currently no data to support this claim, so this trial aims to assess objectively whether or not free car parking is beneficial enough to justify the costs.

“The trial is at weekends to target potential shoppers, rather than commuters, and during the winter to support traders out of season. The removal of the overnight charge is not a trial and aims to boost the year-round late afternoon and early evening economy.”

The trial runs alongside two pre-existing parking incentives, which apply throughout the week and together enable residents to park for three hours for 90p:

•The borough council’s Resident Advantage Card gives a third hour free to residents who pay to park for two hours in any town centre car park, including Palmer’s car park.

•Great Yarmouth Town Centre Partnership has a scheme allowing anyone who uses the borough council’s town centre car parks and spends £10 or more in one transaction at participating retailers to get the equivalent cost of one hour’s parking discounted off their purchase.

When the trial starts, shoppers will be able to take part in the survey at www.great-yarmouth.gov.uk/have-your-say

This news story was provided by Great Yarmouth Mercury

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