Spots fill up fast on first day of free festive car parking offer in Blackpool
Blackpool's Central Car Park was almost full this morning, on the first day of the council's free parking offer.
It will also cost just Â£1 to park in West Street, Talbot multi-storey and East Topping Street car parks.
Both offers will run daily from Monday until December 31, while there will be free parking in all the council’s town centre car parks on December 23 and 24, as had previously been announced.
One motorist who used the car park off Central Drive this morning was Patricia Blezard, 64, who described the free parking as a "good idea."
Ms Blezard, of St James' Road in South Shore said she usually parks at Sainsbury's in Talbot Road, which offers free parking for 90 minutes, or for three hours if Â£5 is spent in-store.
She said she left her car in Central Car Park because of the offer, and believes the offer will benefit businesses in the town centre in the run up to Christmas.
"It will have a good effect," she said.
Angela Capstick from Warton said she uses the car park once a week, always immediately after the morning school run, and said it's "always empty."
She added: "This morning it was three quarters full. I knew that's a sign it is free! It's a bonus. I don't have to watch the time.
"It's quicker to get here than Preston. I prefer Blackpool to Preston."
Bill Gregory, 74, visited the resort from Chorley, alongside Jenny Rickards, 71, from Bury, who hasn't been here for 40 years.
He said: "Normally we won't come to Blackpool, we would go to St Annes because it's easier to park. We just fancied a look around Blackpool.
"I thought it would be three or four quid, but I might come again tomorrow now."
And Jeffrey Brock, 25, who brought his daughter to Blackpool for a family day out from Bolton, added: "For people who want to go into town and do some shopping, I think it's a good idea.
"It attracts people to come. Some are put off by parking charges sometimes."
According to the council's website, parking at Central usually costs a minimum of Â£3 for cars, for up to two hours.
An eight-hour stay will set motorists back Â£10 normally.
The council's decision to offer free parking came just days after Labour councillors rejected a call by opposition leader Coun Tony Williams to extend the initial free parking offer, which only covered the weekend of December 23 and 24.
And last week, more than 100 traders gathered at a meeting of the Blackpool BID (business improvement district) to plead for help amid claims town centre roadworks are deterring shoppers.
Many said they had seen takings and customer numbers down between 30 and 75 per cent.
BID is helping meet the cost of free parking, and has contributed an undisclosed amount to the council.
A Blackpool BID board spokesman said: “It’s great news the council has listened to the businesses and ourselves and agreed to offer free parking.
“Some retailers are really concerned with the challenges they are facing as a consequence of the road works that are currently in place in the town centre.
“The businesses agreed free parking was one of the best options to try and kick-start Christmas shopping.”
Traffic is currently being diverted around the town centre while parts of Dickson Road and Talbot Road, including the junction of Talbot Road and the Promenade, are closed as part of a major overhaul of the town centre, including preparatory work for the extension of the tramway.
Traders are angry the work is being done in the run up to Christmas, traditionally one of their busiest times.
Simon Wrigley, owner of the Coffee Pot Cafe on Birley Street and Number Five in Cedar Square, said: “This has been the worst November since we opened, and takings are 30 per cent down compared to last year. So hopefully this free parking offer will give us the kick-start we need.”
Richard Lefton, from the Lefton furniture group, said: “I agree with free parking, but it’s too late because people are already shopping out of town. This should all have been thought out well before the start of the roadworks.”
Coun Williams said: “When I presented the motion calling for free parking during December to full council this Labour council turned it down flat, stating they weren’t prepared to lose Â£143,000 of car park revenue. “I just hope it’s not too late to save the Christmas business for the town’s traders.”
Coun Gillian Campbell, deputy leader of Blackpool Council, said: “We try to support both businesses and shoppers where we can, which is why the free parking offer on Central car park is running for the whole of December, including the week between Christmas and New Year.
“We want shoppers to enjoy their time in Blackpool town centre and hope the discounted and free parking offers will encourage people to do their Christmas shopping and benefit from the diverse range of both small firms and bigger retailers we have here in Blackpool.”