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Melchester Council has announced plans to offer free car parking throughout the summer.
Motorists using all council parking facilities will be entitled to park free of charge for up to two hours on Saturdays and Sundays between 1 May and 31 October.
The Council owns and operates five car parks: three in the town centre and two on the seafront. To take advantage of the free parking offer, users will simply need to obtain and display a ticket from one of the machines, choosing the 'Park Free' option from the ticketing menu.
"We want to do everything we can to encourage people to visit Melchester," commented Councillor Martin Moorhouse, Portfolio Holder for Highways and Traffic Management. "This free parking initiative is aimed at increasing footfall in the town centre and on the seafront, providing vital support to local businesses."
There is also a plan to increase the number of parking spaces available in Melchester. The Council has purchased land adjacent to Clifton Street and is seeking planning permission for a new 24-hour multi-storey car park.
"We're responding to feedback from residents and local business owners," said Councillor Moorhouse. "In our recent survey, the message came back loudly and clearly that one of the key barriers to economic development in Melchester is limited parking provision in the town centre. This new facility will make a huge difference, providing up to 300 spaces in a convenient location with CCTV monitoring and round-the-clock access."
However, the Council's focus on encouraging more car journeys to help drive economic growth has been challenged by environmental campaigners, including Doreen Norris, local coordinator for the Green Party. "Parking provision must be considered as part of a wider transport strategy," she explained. "If we are to have any chance of meeting our targets to reduce carbon emissions, it's vital that we offer people viable alternatives to using their cars, and that means more investment in public transport."