A forward thinking Northampton shop owner is paying for his customers' parking tickets out of his own pocket to improve trade in the town centre.
As part of a goodwill gesture and to boost footfall, the owner of Steffans Jewellers in Abington Square, Wes Suter, has installed a parking ticket validation machine in his shop so he can pay his customers' £2 fee when they buy goods.
The move comes after the borough council introduced a £2 weekend all-day parking charge in its multi-storey car parks earlier this year, which Wes thinks put shoppers off coming to Northampton.
Since the charge has been put in place he said trade for him is down by about 30 per cent and online shopping has become more popular.
Wes said: "We have fitted a validating machine in store and we are offering free parking on a Saturday to combat the loss of footfall.
"The council then bill me for every customers parking ticket we validate. We don’t even get a discount. The council need to re think the strategy especially at Christmas or we will have more shops failing due to reduced footfall, among other challenges.
"We will pay for it indefinitely. We are trialling to see if this will help to entice clients back into Northampton. I find it hard to understand how the council can charge more for less. We have less shops for people to come into town for."
Northampton Borough Council have said it will only offer free parking on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day - but will not offer a discount on any weekend leading up to the festive season.
Mayorhold and Grosvenor's Centre car park will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year's Day while St Johns will remain open.
Grosvenor, St John's, St Michael's and the Mayorhold car parks is all free for up to two hours during the week.
The decision has been criticised by Northampton Town Centre Business Improvement District earlier this week, after the boss of which warned that shoppers may now go elsewhere.
Councillor Tim Hadland, Cabinet member for regeneration, enterprise and planning, said: “Starting with the light switch on this Saturday, we are providing a variety of free family entertainment and events on Saturdays in the run up to Christmas, to encourage shoppers into the town centre, including live music on the Market Square, our ever popular Frost Fair and Christmas Parade and the daily Igloo Cinema.
“£2 is a relatively small parking charge at weekends, in line with other town centres, and we would remind everyone that we still provide two hours free parking in all our multi-storey car parks each weekday, with almost a million people taking up this offer each year.
“We continue to support local businesses through our successful Business Incentive Scheme grants, which has helped 152 businesses to date, with over 87 new businesses taking up vacant units in and around the town and 720 jobs created.”