Free town centre parking extended in Wigan and Leigh

Parking in Wigan and Leigh town centres will be free at weekends for a further two months, council bosses have said.

Thursday, 24th January 2019, 4:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 24th January 2019, 5:04 pm
The Galleries car park

The scheme – launched in September to help boost the local economy over the Christmas period – was due to come to an end later this month.

Cabinet members on Thursday backed plans to push the date back to March 31 because it had been a ‘massive success that has driven footfall.’

Council leader David Molyneux said: “I’ve had a lot of feedback from traders and shoppers who were really appreciative of what we did over that period.

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“And this time of year, it’s even more difficult for retailers after that Christmas rush.”

The extension will give town hall bosses extra time to assess whether it could become a more permanent arrangement.

The council is currently putting together its 2019/20 budget which will include the long-term plan on town centre parking fees, Coun Molyneux added.

A report tabled for cabinet members said the free parking trial would cost the cash-strapped authority around £120k in revenue and if made permanent the figure could be up to £320k per year.

But Rebecca Heron, director for economy and skills, had said ‘this may well prove a good investment if it helps to sustain and help grow our town centre economies.’

The parking scheme was listed as an ‘interim measure’ that required urgent consideration as part of Wigan’s wider town centre strategy.

The plan includes bringing leisure, retail and residential uses into the town and preparations for the arrival of its HS2 link.

Ms Heron said: “We are looking at all of our towns and district centres but we need a coherent plan for our main town centre because that will bring borough wide benefits.”

The cabinet agreed to endorse the draft of the ‘Strategic Regeneration Framework’.

Paul Barton, director of environment, told the meeting although the free trial for local authority car parks had proved to be a ‘massive success’, he said members may in future consider making it free after 10am or impose a three hour limit to help with ‘capacity issues’.

Coun Molyneux said no changes would be made before the end of March while the options are considered.

And he issued a warning to inconsiderate drivers that enforcement officers will still be on patrol.

He said: “Can I make a plea for considerate parking because some people seem to think because it’s free parking, it’s a free-for-all. That’s not the case, enforcement officers are still looking at people who park inconsiderately.

“Particularly for disabled shoppers who find their spaces are taken up by non-disabled shoppers thinking they can park there for free. Enforcement will still be in place.”