Wigan Council has made a bold move to incentivise both shops and shoppers by scrapping weekend car park charges.
All 17 of the local authority’s multi-storey and surface car parks will be free to use on both Saturdays and Sundays until the new year as of September 15, leader Coun David Molyneux announced to a meeting of the full council tonight.
The move aims to boost Wigan and Leigh town centre’s economies which have recently been rocked by a series of high street retailer departures. The latest bombshell was M&S’s plans to decamp from Standishgate to Robin Retail Park to become a food hall only.
The free parking trial will run into January, covering the vital Christmas shopping period, after it will be reviewed to see whether it has brought about an upturn in trade and is viable for the local authority to continue indefinitely.
It comes on the back of a summer of events which have drawn the crowds in to both town centres.
Coun Molyneux said: “Town centres are a focal point and still a natural draw to many people. We have seen many people turn out for events like The Guardians of the Galleries (a “comic con”) which brought in more than 3,500 people in Wigan earlier this month.
“As part of The Deal we encourage you to support your local businesses and many people have said free parking will make them come to the town centre to pick up some essentials, grab some lunch and make the most of what we have on offer.
“This is a way for us to show our commitment to businesses and residents and recognise the importance of our town centres on the back of the changing landscape of retailers on high streets across the country.
“It’s now up to you to use that parking and support your local economy. That support means that we can continue to drive investment and transform these vital spaces to meet a demand from you.”
The free parking includes The Galleries and Water Street multi-storey car parks and the Civic Centre car park on Millgate in Wigan and the Town Hall and Spinning Gate in Leigh.
Motorists are reminded to check they are parking in council owned car parks by visiting www.wigan.gov.uk/carparking
Wigan Council recently spent millions of pounds buying back the Galleries from its private owners after years of its haemorrhaging businesses.
Town hall bosses say that it may be that at least parts of it in future will be less about retail and more about accommodation, leisure facilities and food and drink establishments, acknowledging that the British retail scene is changing with far more shopping happening online these days.