TOWN hall bosses have announced a new parking plan aimed at boosting Christmas shopper numbers in South Shields town centre.
Council-owned car parks in South Shields town centre will all be free of charge after 3pm throughout December.
There will also be no charge on Sundays and on ‘Small Business Saturday’ which is being held on December 6.
Council chiefs say the ‘Free after Three’ initiative has been introduced to support town centre businesses and traders and give shoppers a little extra Christmas cheer.
Coun Tracey Dixon, the council’s lead member for Area Management and Community Safety, said: “It’s important to support both businesses and shoppers where we can.
“The run up to Christmas is an expensive time of year and we are hoping this initiative will benefit residents and businesses alike.
“The offer is running for the whole of December, including the week between Christmas and New Year, so shoppers will be able to take full advantage of the seasonal sales.
“Free parking is just one more reason to come into the town centre during the festive season.”
Coun John Anglin, the council’s lead member for Regeneration and Economy, added: “We’ve listened to traders and I’m delighted that we have been able to put this scheme in place over the festive period.
“This is in addition to the 300-plus free car parking spaces at various locations throughout the town centre, including Ocean Road and the Customs House, that we have all year round.
“Around a third of all council-owned parking spaces in the town centre are already free and this additional Christmas offer will give traders and shoppers an extra boost.”
Coun Dixon also said some further festive treats were in store for shoppers.
She added: “Christmas celebrations across the borough are always spectacular and this year promises to be better than ever, with a packed programme of events and some seasonal surprises in store.
“There will be no shortage of fantastic events and entertainment on offer this year, as well as a great range of shops and market stalls.”
The ‘Free after Three’ initiative is not the first time the council has attempted to tackle the thorny issue of town centre parking.
Just over a year ago a parking redemption scheme was launched.
It allows shoppers to park up in town and have the cost of their ticket refunded by a participating retail outlet, providing they spend an agreed amount in store.
But so far it has met with mixed results, with many retailers saying it had failed to bolster trade.