A SCHEME to offer free parking after 3pm in Darlington’s car parks in the run up to Christmas looks set to win the backing of the council.

The proposal to offer free parking in the Christmas shopping period was devised by Distinct Darlington, the company behind the town’s business improvement district, as a way to boost trade and entice shoppers to the town.

Distinct Darlington has asked Darlington Borough Council to allow free parking in council-controlled car parks across the borough after 3pm between December 7 and 24, as part of a series of initiatives planned for the festive period.

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The company has offered to reimburse the council with 50 per cent of the estimated £37,500 of lost car park revenue.

A report prepared for the council’s cabinet, which will debate the matter at a meeting on Tuesday, November 5, has recommended the proposal for approval.

In previous years the council had offered free parking after 3.30pm on each of the four Thursdays before Christmas.

The new scheme would see free parking in all council car parks and on-street parking bays after 3pm every day, except Sundays, from December 7 until Christmas Eve.

Speaking earlier this month, Alex Hirst, manager of Distinct Darlington, said the majority of retailers in the town had indicated that they would extend or adjust their opening hours if the ‘free after three’ scheme was given the go-ahead.

She added: "The past few years have been difficult for traders for a number of reasons and we hope changes to parking will help ease some of this pressure."

Other initiatives planned for Christmas by Distinct Darlington include an ice rink in the Market Square, TV advertisements and a Christingle Market planned for December 5-8.

In his report for cabinet, the council’s director of place, Richard Alty, says: “This is a temporary parking promotion, timed to coincide with the Christmas shopping period.

“It is anticipated that the promotion will help to spread some of the demand for parking further throughout the day, thereby reducing pressure on parking spaces at the peak time, which is usually between noon and 2pm.”