Christmas shoppers will be able to park for a £1 in Blackpool this December.
It is hoped the discounted deal, along with a programme of entertainment, will entice residents and visitors to spend their money in the resort’s shops during the festive season.
Cheap bus and tram tickets are also being offered to tempt shoppers onto public transport as a means of getting into town while roadworks are in place. But town hall chiefs have ditched last year’s free parking offer.
People will be able to park for up to three hours on Central, East Topping Street and West Street car parks for £1 during December.
In addition, Blackpool Transport will offer £1 tickets to use trams and buses after 5.30pm on the three late night shopping Thursdays (December 6, 13 and 20) and all day every Sunday during December.
Coun Mark Smith, Blackpool’s cabinet member for business and economic development, said: “We are delighted to be able to announce discounted car parking throughout the month of December on three of our main town centre car parks.
“It means people will be able to park for three hours for just £1. We hope that will encourage our own residents to shop in their own town centre this Christmas and will also provide an attractive deal for visitors coming from out-of-town.”
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Last year some traders said too much of the free parking got taken up by town centre workers instead of shoppers so it is hoped the discounted offer will stop that.
The scheme is being funded by the council, and the Town Centre BID (Business Improvement District) which last year contributed £25,000.
It will start on Saturday December 1, which is National Small Business Saturday as well as the day of Blackpool’s Christmas Lights Switch-On in St John’s Square, and will run until January 1.
A BID spokesman said: “Blackpool town centre has so much to offer to Christmas shoppers in terms of the mix of independent and national brands, illuminated streets and a vastly-improved range of cafes and restaurants.
“We hope the discounted offer will be a great incentive for people to not just shop in Blackpool this Christmas, but also enjoy some of the rich entertainment that is on offer at our theatres and venues.”
Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Conservatives on Blackpool Council, said he would have liked free parking introduced again in the run up to Christmas.
He said: “Although £1 to park is a good discount, I would have preferred to see three hours of free parking offered. This would also stop people who work in the town centre taking advantage of the scheme to park all day.
“I welcome the £1 fares being introduced on buses and trams and that is something I have been calling for but I think it should be over the whole Christmas period.”
Jane Cole, managing director of Blackpool Transport, said they were pleased to back the scheme this year.
She said: “We are delighted to be supporting Blackpool town centre by offering customers greatly reduced fares so that they can get in and out of town on key shopping days in the run-up to Christmas and New Year.
“It’s a great benefit to our regular riders, but also a fantastic opportunity for other people to experience how good Blackpool’s public transport offer has become.”
This year sees a number of Christmas productions in and around the town centre including the Beauty & The Beast pantomime at the Grand Theatre, The Wizard Of Oz at the Opera House, Santa’s Sleigh at the Pavilion Theatre in the Winter Gardens; and Aladdin at The Blackpool Tower Circus.
In addition there is a wide range of Christmas events at venues such as Viva.
Traders warned of traffic disruption
The Gazette visited Central Car Park last year, on the first day of the council’s free parking offer.
It was introduced after weeks of pressure from angry business owners, with traders warning traffic disruption caused by roadworks had led to a huge drop in revenue of up to 75 per cent.
Parking at Central Car Park was free all day, while it cost just £1 topark in West Street, Talbot multi-storey and East Topping Street car parks.
Both offers ran daily until December 31 and there was free parking in all the council’s town centre car parks on December 23 and 24.
One motorist who used the car park off Central Drive 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 £5 is spent in-store.
She said she left her car in Central Car Park because of the offer, and believed the offer would 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 used 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. I prefer Blackpool to Preston.”
Support your local shops
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l Highlight the vibrant variety of shops and small businesses in our communities and encourage readers to spend more time and money in their high streets;
l Drive home the message to the Treasury and our local MPs that outdated business rates need urgent reform to lessen the burden on independent traders;
l Call for positive action on parking charges and spaces to encourage people to visit our high streets;
l Pressure the Government to review what access high street businesses and shoppers have to cash and digital payments in the face of dwindling bank branches and ATMs.
Why isn’t it free now?
The council said: “The Christmas parking offer is designed to attract shoppers into the town centre.
“When we have run free parking in the past we found spaces filled very quickly with people leaving their cars for the whole day.
“We want to ensure that there are enough spaces for shoppers who are coming into town to spend money with local businesses, which is why a nominal charge for three hours has been decided.”
Roadworks in place again
This is the second year extensive roadworks have been in place in Blackpool town centre as part of the town’s regeneration programme which includes the extension of the tramway and the construction of a new conference centre.
Talbot Road will remain closed from The Strand to Abingdon Street until December 14.
It will also remain closed from Abingdon Street to Dickson Road until January 18.
Talbot Square will be closed for tramworks until February 28.
Sections of Talbot Road will temporarily re-open during the Christmas period.
Last year, the council’s Christmas parking scheme included free parking in all town centre car parks on December 23 and 24, while charges were waived in Central Car Park.
The offer ran in December alongside reduced charges of £1 to park in West Street, Talbot multi-storey and East Topping Street car parks.
Traders who are members of BID, had asked for help amid claims roadworks were deterring shoppers. Some businesses said takings and customer numbers were down between 30 and 75 per cent.