Christmas shoppers in Deal, Dover and Sandwich will be able to park for free at certain times in a bid to boost festive trade.
Dover District Council’s cabinet voted on Monday night to stop charging for its off-street car parks from 3pm Monday to Friday throughout December.
Payment is usually until 6pm and it is hoped the move will encourage residents to shop locally and support traders.
A report to the cabinet recommended the move and Cllr Charlotte Zosseder (Lab), portfolio holder for community and corporate property, said: “I’m delighted we’ve got a report that has listened to local traders and that we’ve been speaking to people and responding. I move the recommendation.”
Cllr Susan Beer (Lab), portfolio holder for finance and a Deal ward member, said: “I hope businesses will take the opportunity to extend their hours if they need to at this period.”
An officers’ report to the cabinet said: “The decision to provide free Christmas parking will support local businesses and help to promote shopping in the district’s town centres.
“Free Christmas parking has had a positive impact in previous years and has been well received by both local businesses and their customers.
“This has presented many benefits to local town centres.
“With many retailers now gearing up for the festive season, DDC wants more people to recognise the value, quality and choice that local, independent traders provide.”
On-street parking charges will apply as normal and in the car parks usual fees would apply at all other times and dates.
Yellow line restrictions also continue as normal.
The council estimates this would cost it £12,000 in lost revenues but this policy has been used in past years so it was factored in for income forecasts.
Last December there were no charges for all five of its Saturdays.
At the turn of 2021/22 there was no cost for December 4 and December 23-28 plus January 1-3.
Even in 2020, after councils lost income during the pandemic lockdowns, fees were waived on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.
The cabinet had two other options, which officers did not recommend.
One was free parking for all Saturdays in December again.
But officers found many of the spaces ended up being used by local businesses, shop workers and residents instead of the concession leading to a rise in visitors.
That strategy anyway means a loss of £30,000 in revenue.
The third option was to offer no concessions but customers and traders would then benefit nothing.