Business leaders in Uppingham and Oakham have welcomed a six-month trial to reduce the cost of parking on market days.
Rutland County Council will bring market day parking charges in line with the tariff for the rest of the week from September.
This means shoppers who want to park for several hours will no longer have to pay extra on Wednesdays in Oakham and Fridays in Uppingham.
The trial comes after repeated calls from traders in both towns, but particularly Oakham, for something to be done to increase footfall.
Chairman of Oakham Town Partnership Debbie Oakes said she was delighted the county council, town councils and business groups were finally working together to address the issue.
“Before there was a bit of a lack of communication,” she added. “But now it’s brilliant.
“The committees now have representatives from all the councils. That’s what makes a difference, because people start to listen.
“We’ve now got a lot more retailers on the panel. More people on the ground to hear the public’s concerns.”
The trial will run from September until March and will affect all the county council car parks in Oakham and Uppingham.
For example, it currently costs £4 to park for more than three hours on a Wednesday in Oakham’s Westgate car park. Once the trial begins this will drop to £2.90.
Similarly, it costs £3.80 to park for more than three hours on a Friday in Uppingham’s North Street East car parks. From September, this will fall to £2.70.
Debbie hopes it will boost footfall in the town. She said: “We hope it will bring up the numbers.
“We see this as a beginning with more work to be done. Everyone has seen the results of what happened in the Welsh market town of Cardigan, where the parking machines were broken and the council couldn’t afford to replace them. Footfall has increased monumentally.
“This is a work in progress and it’s one step at a time. What we don’t want to do is suddenly say ‘let’s have free parking’ and then the spaces are filled by workers and there are none for shoppers.”
Uppingham First secretary and member of the town’s business forum Ron Simpson said the changes might not have as big an effect in Uppingham, where free on-street parking does exist. But he welcomed the trial nonetheless.
He said: “It will be popular with the traders in Uppingham and we look forward to it helping to increase visitor numbers.
“All market towns have suffered low footfall with the rise of internet shopping and the battles over parking.”
The county council’s portfolio holder for highways and transport Tony Mathias (Con) said: “This is being done in response to feedback from businesses and residents and put in place over the Christmas period, when local shops and traders are at their busiest. We hope the change will encourage more people to park in the towns, boosting local trade and offsetting any loss of income for the council.”
○ The county council has this week introduced cashless parking in Uppingham and Oakham. Drivers can now use their mobile phones to pay, allowing them to top up their time without having to rush back to their car.
The new service is run via RingGo. To sign up visit: www.myringgo.co.uk.