FREE after three parking is now a permanent fixture at Stafford Railway Station after proving to be such a huge success during a summer trial.
Virgin bosses were eager to back a Newsletter campaign to convince the borough council to trial free parking after 3pm at council-run town centre car parks.
And after trying out the scheme at the station’s multi-storey during weekends for six weeks they have opted to continue the scheme indefinitely.
Team leader Fiona Main said: “It’s great that people have taken up the offer and while we have the capacity we are glad to help the campaign.
“I think from the timings that between 3.30 and 7pm on a Saturday are when the most cars have been in for free which is perhaps when people are eating out in the afternoon.”
The Newsletter launched a petition to trial free after three after Councillor Philip Jones touted the idea to encourage more shoppers to come into town and keep business booming. Our petition has been signed by hundreds of residents and has the support of many traders in both Stafford and Stone.
But the borough council has been reluctant to trial such a project amid fears it could potentially cost £300,000 in lost income and lead to an increase in traffic. However, after much questioning from the Newsletter council leader Mike Heenan has pledged to give some consideration to it.
A complete review of parking is also set to be completed at the end of the year and Councillor Heenan said it could include free parking at the planned Morrisons development, which means the council does recognise there is some value to it.
Meanwhile, businesses have continued to support the scheme. Ann Ajer, from the Original Cupcake Company in Stafford, said: “Often customers can't stick around if their ticket is up, so dash back. It would help customers feel that they don’t have to clock-watch which would definitely boost business.”
Jude Smalley, from Mr Simm's Olde Sweet Shoppe, said many people walked through St Mary’s Gate to get to the town centre and free parking might make them more willing to stop rather than rushing back to the car.
Chris and Donna Coleman, from Peccadillos, said: “Free parking from 3pm might be advantageous to those on the school run on weekdays and would really help people out on Saturdays, which would be great.”
Hazel Kennedy, who runs Gabi clothes shop, said free after three would be helpful on Saturdays and a spokesman from Express Curtains said it would help deter people from the big retail parks.
Free after three petitions can be signed at the Newsletter office in Derby Street, Stafford and can also be found online at www.staffordshirenewsletter.co.uk. Supporters can also send their names and addresses to firstname.lastname@example.org.