Free parking is being offered at certain times in the run up to Christmas to boost trade in Sheerness High Street
The decision was announced at the full council meeting on Wednesday evening last week.
It has been welcomed by town traders, but the borough council’s Labour group has said it is not enough. From Saturday, December 7, parking will be free at all Swale council car parks after 2pm.
There will also be free all-day parking on Sundays, December 8, 15 and 22. The “free after two” scheme follows the success of a similar initiative last year, when it was free after 3pm.
It is hoped it will encourage residents to shop locally and support local traders. Signs will be placed in the car parks nearer the time, but on-street restrictions will continue to be enforced.
Fiona McMillan, who runs O So You in Sheerness with her partner Pete Giffen, welcomed the announcement. She said: “I’m very happy about it. I think it will make a difference – parking is always an issue for people.”
Swale Labour leader Mike Haywood
Sheila Smith, who runs Rainbow Jewellers in the town and is secretary of Sheerness Traders’ Association, said: “It sounds like [the council] is doing more than it normally does.
“We definitely welcome it – we welcome anything they do for us.
“It would be nice if they did a bit more, like for all of December, but it’s better than nothing.”
The council’s cabinet member for the environment and rural affairs, Cllr David Simmons, said they hope it will boost trading as after 2pm is often seen as a quieter period for town centres.
But Swale’s Labour leader Cllr Mike Haywood said the council needs to do much more if it is to increase trade.
He said: “We welcome the introduction of a limited free parking period over Christmas – it’s not before time. We have been calling for the council to do this for years. The Tories running Swale council are way behind the times.
“We’ve got to do much, much more if we are to boost trade in our ailing high streets.
“That’s why we called for a free parking trial period in our town centres in Sittingbourne, Sheerness and Faversham in February this year, and why we are still calling for it today.”