Free parking scheme to boost town trade

SHOPPERS and retailers in Lowestoft were given an early Christmas present this week as plans were unveiled for a new free parking scheme designed to boost trade in the town.

Details of the initiative, which starts tomorrow at the town's two main multi-storey car parks, were announced as The Journal launches its new Love Local campaign.

The free parking incentive – which offers refunds to people using the Battery Green and the Britten Centre car parks – has been drawn up to reduce charges for the first hour of parking in the town centre.

Described as a 'positive boost for everyone', it has been launched by the Lowestoft Town Centre Management Partnership (LTMP), with the support of Waveney District Council, Waveney Norse and retailers.

'This has been at the top of the agenda since I first started, and was first mooted by Bruce Sturrock (of Palmers department store) at least four years ago; he was the real driving force behind this,' Emma King, Lowestoft town centre manager, told The Journal.

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'Talks have progressed since last September and, with the support of Waveney District Council, the Lowestoft Town Management Partnership is showing its commitment to reducing car parking charges with this refund scheme.'

The new scheme, which will last for at least six months, has already been well-received as many of the town's retailers have signed up and many others have shown a keen interest.

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Britten Centre manager and LTMP spokesman Dan Poitras said: 'This is a great boost for everyone. Shop owners are banding together to refund customers for their first hour of car parking in the multi-storey car parks, provided they spend a minimum amount in a single visit to a participating store.

'At the Britten Centre car park, two parking tickets are issued, which enables shoppers to hand over one of their tickets to claim their refund – and the other ticket stays with the car.

'At the Battery Green car park, as it is pay on foot, the customer only needs to present their ticket to a participating retailer to claim their refund,' he added.

With ticket stubs only valid on the day of issue, all participating retailers will have a free parking sign – similar to the one pictured – on display in their windows, to indicate they are supporters of the scheme.

Talks over the past year between LTMP – the retail arm of the Chamber of Commerce – and the council have led to parking fees being reduced to �1 for the first hour, �1.50 for two hours, �2.25 for three hours, and �3 for four hours. So if shoppers claim back the first hour, it will cost them just 50p to stay in town for two hours.

Deputy leader of Waveney District Council, Stephen Ardley, welcomed the scheme. He said: 'We are heavily behind this scheme and fully support it... It has come to fruition now after such a long time, and comes in line with a review of all our car parks, with the main incentive to encourage people to shop locally and come to the town. It is all about the regeneration of Lowestoft, as we work together with LTMP and retailers for the good of the town.'

Mrs King added: 'With fuel costs rising, there is no better reason than to come to Lowestoft town centre and shop locally as there is everything to offer here on your doorstep. We have lots of large national stores and many large independent shops as well.

'What I am hearing from the retailers is that Lowestoft is really rallying round at the moment and bucking the national trend – footfall is growing, and we are now trying to take another step forward to help increase this even further, by getting more people into the town centre and shopping in the participating retailers' stores.

'We'd also like to thank the retailers for supporting the scheme and there is lots of interest in it.'

To gain a refund, shoppers must spend at least �10 in a participating store.

Businesses interested in joining the scheme should ring Mrs King on 01502 502200 or Mr Poitras on 01502 560302.

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