FREE car parking from noon could be just the ticket to boost trade in Wrexham town centre.
That is the overwhelming belief of Wrexham shoppers and traders as proposals to scrap charges at the People’s Market multi-storey and Crescent Road car parks after midday are to go before council chiefs next week.
The move comes after a long battle between town centre traders and Wrexham Council, sparked by plans to introduce on-street parking at a number of key locations across the town centre.
The public consultation led to an outcry from businesses and residents, who feared it could kill town centre trade.
Now the council hopes the new proposal, which will be tabled at a meeting of the executive board on Tuesday, will boost trade and footfall at a time when many traders are struggling with the economic downturn.
Lesley Taylor, who spearheaded opposition to the previous proposal, described the new plan as an “excellent first step in the right direction”.
“This is a very positive suggestion,” she said. “Anything that brings more people into the town centre is sure to boost trade.”
She added: “I think they (council chiefs) were genuinely shocked by the reaction last time but they have access to figures on footfall, car parking usage and trade and they need to keep a close eye on that and use that to guide their decisions in the future.”
Alex Jones, vice-chairman of Wrexham’s Chamber of Trade and Tourism, said: “This would be a brilliant incentive to get people into the town centre and would come at a great time with T.J. Hughes having just closed; we need something to boost that end of town now.
“It will also give the People’s Market a really good chance and if footfall is increased it should encourage new businesses to spring up. But the council shouldn’t just stop there,” he added.
“We need to continue to come up with new incentives like this for the town centre to work.”
The plan looks set to win backing from councillors as both the council leader and deputy leader were quick to back the proposal.
Cllr Ron Davies, leader of the council, said: “This is excellent news for town centre traders, visitors and shoppers alike and I hope members of the executive board give it the go ahead next week.
“The Town Centre Forum was very much in favour of the scheme as it is a common complaint that trade tends to drift off in the afternoon.
“We hope this will really boost business for them.”
Cllr David Bithell, deputy leader and lead member for the environment and transport, said: “We have met traders in the town centre and listened to their concerns for their businesses during these difficult economic times.”
Officers are also looking at a range of other proposals, including bringing buses back to High Street, designed to improve access to the town centre.
These will be presented to the environment and regeneration scrutiny committee in November.
Darren Williams, principal council engineer, will present the report to the executive board which reveals the People’s Market and Crescent Road car parks are falling short of the 85 per cent usage target. The report also tables plans to introduce free parking after noon in a bid to combat the issue and make the town centre more “economically attractive.”
He said: “We hope the move will fill the capacity of all our car parks and will encourage more people into the town centre.”
If approved the pilot, monitored by the council’s environment department, will begin at the end of October and will come back to board members within 12 months for a review.
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