BUSINESS bosses and shoppers are celebrating being awarded free parking from 1pm on the day of Uttoxeter’s historic Christmas lights switch-on event.
Parking chiefs refused a plea from the people of Uttoxeter to boost footfall by abolishing charges for last year’s event.
But, this year, the same officials have confirmed there will be no charges in town centre car parks when the lights are erected on November 29.
The event will be supplemented by the return of the Victorian Christmas Market that proved popular with shoppers and revellers attending 2012’s festive switch-on.
Although the switch will not be flicked until 5pm, East Staffordshire Borough Council has offered free parking during the afternoon.
Hugh Montgomery, the mayor of Uttoxeter, said the move will provide a ‘huge boost’ for High Street businesses.
He said: “On behalf of the town, we made the request for free parking last year and were very disappointed that it was rejected.
“However, we’re delighted the borough council has now changed its attitude and would like to thank them for allowing this to happen.
“Businesses in the town centre need all the held they can get at the minute and it’s no secret that footfall in the town centre is far from healthy.
“Whenever you ask anyone – business leaders or shoppers – what the main reasons for this are, parking charges are always very high up the list.
“Therefore, we’re hopeful that shops in town will see a fantastic afternoon’s trade and the Victorian Market will really benefit from a good turn-out in the evening.
“It would be great of the council could see its way to repeating this policy for other events – we know the attendance for last week’s continental market was quite poor.”
Julia Jessel, East Staffordshire Borough Council’s deputy leader for regulatory services, said: “The Borough Council is pleased to continue to support the Uttoxeter Victorian Christmas Market and the Christmas lights switch on and raise the profile of local small businesses and to contribute to revitalising the town centre against the backdrop of an economically difficult trading environment.
“By offering free parking for the event it is anticipated that the number of visitors to the town centre will significantly increase and provide a boost to the local economy.”