CHRISTMAS shoppers in Darlington are to benefit from car parking offers and cheaper bus travel over the festive season.

Darlington Borough Council's cabinet members approved the plans on Tuesday evening which are designed to give traders and shopkeepers a boost during their busiest time of the year – from the end of November until the beginning of January.

Council leader Bill Dixon described the offers as "great for shoppers".

But opposition councillors have urged for more to be done to help elderly shoppers who want to visit the town centre over the Christmas period.

From Thursday, November 23, when the town's Christmas lights are officially switched on, people will be able to take advantage of two parking offers.

The first is a free third hour in all short stay car parks and the second is to charge £2 for all day in East Street car park.

The council is proposing that the offers run until Tuesday, January 2.

The link-up with Arriva will see shoppers being able to buy a Darlington Town Day Ticket, which provides unlimited travel within the town all day, being offered at two tickets for £5 –normally £3.50 each.

While the second offer is the wider Borough ticket which covers the rural areas where two tickets will be offered for £8.50 – normally £5.80 per ticket.

Councillor Nick Wallis, cabinet member for leisure and local environment, said: "As long as I have been on the council there has always been some sort of special offer (for Christmas), and I am really pleased we have gone back to the principle of what works.

"I am really keen to promote the town centre not just with the car parking but with the bus travel - the success of the town centre relies as much on bus travel as it does on car parks.

Anne-Marie Curry, liberal democrat councillor, said the plans did not include anything to help pensioners and accommodate those who like to come to the town early to avoid busy times.

"People used to come and have their breakfast and do their shopping - now they go elsewhere," she said.

The council will advertise the change to its parking tariffs and will provide information at pay points.

There will also be promotion and advertising of the offer to the public and to retailers.