District council: Free car parking between Christmas and January 3

Street view of building: Uttlesford District Council, Saffron Walden, Essex

Uttlesford District Council - Credit: Charlie Ridler

Parking across Uttlesford will be free between Christmas Day and January 3 in an attempt to attract people into town and village centres.

According to Uttlesford District Council documents, it is thought this will cost £10,000.

But according to a council report, free parking has not significantly increased the number of people visiting the district’s town centres in the past.

The free parking will not cover Fairycroft car park, Saffron Walden.

A section of the report reads: “Anecdotal evidence from the Saffron Walden BID and Great Dunmow Town Team, and from many individual businesses, is that these promotional campaigns do not generate a significantly higher footfall in the town centres.”

At a cabinet meeting last night (Thursday December 2), Councillor Richard Freeman said: “It seemed to make very little difference to anything, partly because most of the public didn’t know anything about the free parking and even if they had it probably wouldn’t have made much difference.”

However, Cllr Freeman supported the motion because not doing so “would not be in the spirit of what we’ve done before.”

He added: “It’s quite a reasonable period, the loss of revenue will not be very substantial, but on the other hand it makes it a little bit easier to go and park, you don’t have to worry about it.”

The council previously allowed free parking in 2019, but almost 90% of people in Saffron Walden and Great Dunmow did not know about it, according to the report.

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More than 50% of the people surveyed said a free parking incentive would encourage them to visit the town centres.

Council leader John Lodge said at the meeting: “The publicity of this is important if we’re going to make the most of it. 

“We want to make sure people know about it and they actually use that facility and actually bring extra footfall into the town.”

According to the report, the council will promote the free parking incentive using stickers and banners in car parks, advertising on social media and in newspapers, and by liaising with town and parish councils, Saffron Walden BID, Great Dunmow Town Team and Stansted Business Forum.

READ MORE:

Why some Uttlesford car park machines no longer take cash