Shoppers will be able to visit Falkirk and park for free while they do their Christmas buying.
In a bid to give high street traders a festive boost every council-owned car park will be free from Monday.
It is expected the deal until January 4 will cost the council around £30,000 in lost revenue. That’s on top of the cost of its ‘Free after Three’ initiative which has been running since February and seen potential fees from parking charges drop by around £4400 a month.
That had been due to end last Sunday - but will now also continue into the new year. The ‘giveaway’ will land the council with an estimated total bill of £79,000.
Despite the financial ‘hit’ the council’s Executive backed the move when it met on Tuesday.
Councillors agreed it is a price worth paying to underline its commitment to shop owners at this time of the year.
They were told: “The retail sector continues to report extremely difficult trading conditions in the town centre and the ‘Free after Three’ initiative was considered a positive supportive step by the council.
“It sought to encourage increased footfall and was delivered over the agreed period of 10 months until the end of November. Members were made aware from the outset that delivering this initiative would have a direct impact on income. The anticipated revenue loss as a consequence of Free after Three and free festive car parking is estimated at £74,000 of unbudgeted expenditure as well as a £4500 additional cost for amending car park signs.”
Figures show 70 per cent of town centre businesses have reported an increase in sales as a result of the ‘Free after Three’ scheme and a survey of shoppers showed over 78 per cent of those asked had taken advantage of the chance to park for free in the afternoon.
Some retailers, however, are worried free festive parking will not give them the boost they hoped for.
Concerns were raised that town centre workers will grab the spaces first thing in the morning, effectively removing the potential benefit to shoppers later in the day.
But their suggestion the free festive period initiative be dropped and car parking charges continue up until 3 p.m. was rejected by councillors. They did agree, however, to review the longer term prospect of both schemes in February.
Alastair Mitchell of business support group Falkirk Delivers said: “We are very grateful to the council for providing free car parking over Christmas for the fourth year in a row and continuing the Free after Three initiative into the new year. Both are very welcome and will be appreciated by town centre businesses, shoppers and visitors.
“These schemes send out a very positive message at this time of year - that Falkirk is open for business and that can only be a very good thing for the town.”