Parking charges across Blackpool town centre are to be slashed by more than half in a bid to tempt more people to shop in the resort.
From Saturday, people will be able to park for up to 10 hours for £3 at weekends during June and July in car parks including the Talbot Road multi-storey, which was recently revamped at a cost of £6m.
But the move - which does not include Central, East Topping Street or West Street car parks - has been met with a mixed reaction.
Some traders have welcomed it as a step in the right direction, but others have warned it does not go far enough.
Coun John Jones, cabinet member for transport on Blackpool Council, said he had decided to cut prices after listening to business leaders and residents.
He said: “We now want to tackle parking prices and test a range of different strategies to address the comments we receive which say it is too expensive and off-putting to shoppers and visitors. “As a result, every weekend this June and July, we’re offering parking for just three quid – the price of a pint or a posh coffee – at most town centre car parks.”
The multi-million pound Talbot Road car park has come under fire for being under-used because a shutter entry system makes it look closed.
Council chiefs have already cut charges there from £6.50 for four hours to £4.50.
And Coun Don Clapham, deputy leader of the Conservatives on Blackpool Council, who has previously criticised parking facilities in the town, says the latest offer does not go far enough.
He said; “If you are making an offer, you should make it across the whole range of car parks that are available.
“It should include West Street, East Topping Street and Central car parks because people want to park right in the town centre, and once those fill up, then people will move to car parks further out.
“This should be across the board.”
Sarah McConville, of clothing store Blueberries, on Topping Street, said: “I think they should introduce this offer every day, not just at weekends.
“People from Blackpool
already prefer to go to the Trafford Centre because there is free parking there.
“Footfall in Blackpool town centre has dropped and
having offers like this seven days a week and in all the car parks is the only way of bringing people back, and I’m sure it would raise revenue for the council as well.”
But other businesses
welcomed the move.
Richard Taylor, owner of The Regent, on Church Street, which is now operating as a traders emporium, welcomed the plan.
He said: “I think £3 for a full day is a very good idea as it will give people longer in the town centre and more chance to explore.
“The Regent is a bit off the beaten track, so if people are encouraged to park on the edge of town and then they have to walk in, it’s not far and they will see what is going on.
“It will be good to encompass more than just the main town centre.”
Alix Porter, owners of MG Bargains on Talbot Road, said: “Anything the council can do to bring more people in is a good thing because Blackpool is so quiet.
“In Chorley, from 1pm on a Saturday parking is free and the town centre is packed.”
The car parks included in the deal, which more than halves the charges, are Bolton Street, Bonny Street, Chapel Street, Cocker Street, Cocker Square, Gynn Square, Lonsdale A, Lytham Road, Queen Street, South King Street and Talbot Road.
The deal will run every Saturday and Sunday throughout June and July starting from the weekend of June 7 and 8 and finishing on July 26 and 27.
The council said it had not set aside specific money to pay for the trial – and it is not known what the financial impact of reducing the charges will be.
Coun Jones added: “Since taking over responsibility for the roads and car parks I’ve been listening very carefully to people’s views.
“These include getting traffic moving on the Promenade, fixing Yeadon Way during the winter to prevent disruption during the busier summer months and sorting out the problems with the pedestrian crossings at the new Talbot Gateway Central Business District.
“We’ve excluded Central, West Street and East Topping Street which are already hugely popular.
“This will be heavily promoted to ensure everyone knows about it to help local businesses and make sure no one misses out.”
Last month The Gazette revealed how Coun Jones had pledged there would be no further mistakes in the future of development on the resort’s roads, following a number of contentious schemes.
The furore over ‘shared space’ projects on Central Promenade and St John’s Square was followed by the council last month pledging to go back to the drawing board on changes to roads in the Talbot Gateway area, where campaigners for the blind branded the new layout dangerous.
At the end of July, the new cheaper parking scheme will be reviewed.
Other towns in the North West have already introduced cheaper parking schemes as an incentive to shoppers.
Chorley offers free parking after 1pm on Saturdays following a 12-month trial which saw 66 per cent of businesses report an increase in trade.
Bolton has introduced free parking on Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays in three multi-storey car parks on a trial basis until May 2015.