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Parking to remain free at weekends

PUBLISHED: 15:22 30 December 2009 | UPDATED: 11:21 23 August 2010

FREE weekend parking in the borough s council car parks will be extended indefinitely. Gravesham Borough Council first introduced the scheme on Saturdays from May 23 until January 3, 2010 in all council-run car parks to stimulate shopping as part of the

FREE weekend parking in the borough's council car parks will be extended indefinitely.

Gravesham Borough Council first introduced the scheme on Saturdays from May 23 until January 3, 2010 in all council-run car parks to stimulate shopping as part of the Shop Smart initiative.

Following the scheme's success the council's cabinet has voted to continue funding free weekend parking at an estimated cost of £20,400 until April, taking money from the General Fund balance.

It is then predicted to cost the council an annual loss of revenue of around £88,400 which be built into the budget process for 2010/11.

Simon Hookway, the council's economic development manager, said: "We are responding to the downturn in many ways and free parking will be just one of the initiatives we are introducing to boost the economy.

"The Shop Smart campaign aims to get people to spend their money locally to keep the wheels of the economy turning."

The move was in response to requests from businesses who believe abolishing weekend charges will increase trade in the town and help to combat the recession.

The Cabinet considered the impact of the free car parking initiative that showed free car parking on Saturdays had increased awareness that car parks are also free on Sundays with figures demonstrating an average monthly increase on Sundays of between 15 and 20 per cent.

Mr Hookway added: "We shall monitor the results of the free parking carefully and are asking businesses to help us by telling us about the impact on trade. The council's Town Centre Initiative team already keeps records of footfall in the town but that is only one way to measure business activity." The initiative has already cost about £43,000 in car park fees, based on last year's figures.

Thamesgate Centre, St George''s Centre and Asda car parks are not owned or run by the council.

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