Saturday free parking agreed for Leighton Buzzard and Dunstable at four car parks

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Central Bedfordshire Council is to offer free parking Saturdays at four of its car parks In a bid to add a boost to High Streets hard-hit by the pandemic.

The car parks taking part in the scheme will be two in Leighton Buzzard at Hockliffe Street and Duncombe Drive and two in Dunstable at Priory Gardens and Ashton Square.

An exact stating date will be announced shortly after taking account of any further Covid-related announcements made in the days to come by the Prime Minister.

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Cllr Ian Dalgarno, Executive Member for Community Services, said: “We want to press ahead with this temporary measure as soon as possible.

Duncombe Drive car parkDuncombe Drive car park
Duncombe Drive car park

“But we did want to let residents, High Street businesses and traders know that we have been listening to them and developing a scheme to support them but one where we will also be able to measure the impacts.

“We recognise the importance of the period leading into Christmas for traders and believe this will support them in this critical period up to and including the January sales and ending shortly after.

“While it is important to support local businesses, we also want to keep our residents safe. We believe offering a full day of free parking offers the best way of ensuring people continue to socially distance both in car parks and in High Street shops.

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“This temporary measure will help us develop a clearer picture about whether offering free parking really does have economic benefits or simply moves shopping from other days of the week to the free day and whether it raises any social distancing concerns.”

Gennaro Borrelli, chairman of independent traders' group LB First, said the introduction of a free parking period was something that the group had been pressing for.

He said: "We welcome the importance of supporting local businesses and free parking is an important tool which is why we've been advocating for the last few years either one hour free parking or free from three in the afternoon everyday in all our car parks.

"This would help bring people into town across the whole week rather than one specific day plus people would most likely stay in town longer. It's a policy that other local authorities have adopted with great success and something that the Federation Of Small Business has said is vital if town centres are to counteract the detrimental impact of out of town and edge of town retail parks and particularly because of the Coronavirus pandemic our town centre's need all the help they can get."

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