The council has published its action plan for the future of parking in Chester, which includes a list of ways the popular Free After 3 scheme might be replaced.

The plan will see the introduction of on-street parking charges for City Road, Brook Street and Foregate Street, while “fairer and consistent tariffs” will be brought in at the Trinity Street, Cuppin Street, Chester Market and Delamere Street car parks.

A series of alternative options for replacing Free after 3 – which is expected to be phased out by the end of January – will be tried and they include:

- Trialling free after 2pm on a mid-week day on Park and Ride

- Reducing tariffs in some car parks

- Discounts for motorists arriving within certain times

- Discounted evening parking

- Weekend discounts

- Offers during quiet seasonal periods

The 49-page plan for Chester also mentions introducing overnight charges at the Little Roodee car park – at a cost of £8 for between 12 and 24 hours – and length-of-stay restrictions at Sandy Lane car park (for a maximum stay of four hours) and in nearby on-street bays.

Cheshire West and Chester Council say the action plan is to ensure parking in Chester is “fit for purpose” and positively contributes to the city’s economy.

It is part of a new 15-year parking strategy which has been brought in to help the cash-strapped council generate income in the wake of cuts to local authority funding. Labour councillor Karen Shore has previously said "savage Conservative cuts” had led to "difficult decisions" over parking having to be made.

The Free After 3 scheme was introduced in 2008 following a campaign by retailers to address declining city centre footfall. It meant people could park in the Brook Street, Delamere Street and Market car parks free of charge after 3pm and was popular with businesses and shoppers, but it was the main casualty of the council's review into parking and is to be phased out.

The Labour-led council’s cabinet member for environment, Cllr Shore, said: “Over the coming years, the council needs to invest in car parks so that we have enough clean and safe spaces, in the right places, with clear signage and new technology to make it easier and more convenient for people coming to Chester by car. 

“With this action plan for Chester we are addressing the issues facing residents who live in areas where commuters regularly park, introducing the right offers in the right places to encourage visitors, improving disabled provision, and reducing congestion and air pollution. 

“Parking in Chester will be easier and more accessible for everyone and we are supporting residents, businesses and the visitor economy.”

Cllr Shore added: “The current Free after 3 scheme services a small amount of people so instead we’re bringing in a range of offers that cater for all types of people wanting to visit Chester.

“Air pollution is an issue that Chester residents want action on so we are trialling free use of Park and Ride after 2pm mid-week, which we hope will encourage people to leave the car at home, reduce congestion and improve air quality.”

The plan will bring in simplified, reduced rates for Trinity Street (reduced tariff for up to two hours’ stay), Cuppin Street (reduced tariff for up to one hour's stay), Chester Market and Delamere Street, both of which would be cheaper for all durations.

A flat rate of £5 all day will be introduced at Little Roodee and Watergate Street car park to encourage longer-stay use.

“Modest” parking charges will be introduced in the heavily oversubscribed Bishop Street car park in Hoole to help ensure shoppers can find a space by reducing the number of people parking there all day. Walker Street will become a long stay car park for permit holders.

The on-street parking charges for City Road, Brook Street and Foregate Street will be set at £1 per hour (or part hour) up to 6pm, and at a flat rate of £1 after 6pm.

Length-of-stay restrictions will operate until 6pm at all three locations. The current time restriction on City Road will be increased from one hour to a maximum of two hours, and the restriction on Foregate Street will be increased from 30 minutes to one hour.

The council has committed to ensure that all car parks across the borough will be brought up to a good standard, which includes having good signage and new technology to make visits easier and flexible.

In terms of time scales, the introduction of on-street charges will be rolled out between January and March next year. 

The introduction of changes to tariffs/introduction of tariffs/length of stay restrictions will come in during January and February.