THE scheme which allows free parking after 3pm in Chester city centre is to continue.
Following reports in July that the prized ‘Free After Three’ scheme was under threat, Cheshire West and Chester Council has moved to allay the fears of traders, retailers and the public that the initiative was to cease.
Introduced in 2008 following a campaign by retailers to address a declining footfall in the city centre, the scheme, which is operated on the Brook Street, Gorse Stacks and Market car parks, has been lauded as a success since its inception.
Leader of the council, Cllr Mike Jones, said: “Free After Three is a vital part of Chester’s policy for helping meeting the growing retail competition from our larger neigbours in Merseyside and Manchester.
“It has been a key element in helping Chester avoid the very high levels of empty shops on the high street that are currently being experienced by many towns and cities across the country.
“It is something that is very much appreciated by our retailers and the business community.”
The move to confirm the continuation of the scheme comes at a time when the Council are raising the cost Chester’s Park and Ride services and revamping their wider parking strategy.
The price increase represents the first implemented on the service in the life of the new Council, with the new charge of £2.00 still remaining cheaper than the services run in similar tourist cities such as York, Bath and Oxford.
Community and Environment councillor Lynn Riley said: “Chester’s Park and Ride – subsidised by £0.25m – represents one of the best value-for-money services in the country and has only risen by around one pound in 29 years.
“The increased revenue will be used to contribute towards the running costs of the service.”
Further restructuring of parking tariffs across the city is to be ushered in as part of the One City Plan, with the aim of removing inconsistencies with tariffs, with a policy based on an average inner and outer ring road car parking charges and a cleaner, greener environment for residents and visitors.