Free parking in Northampton town centre for big Christmas lights switch on and every weekend until January 1

Plans fall short of calls to boost businesses by scrapping charges all-day, every-day

Wednesday, 17th November 2021, 11:27 am
Saturday's big Christmas lights switch on starts Northampton's festive countdown

Council chiefs hope to boost the numbers shoppers heading to Northampton town centre by offering free car parking at weekends in the run-up to Christmas.

More than 4,000 spaces in the 20 West Northamptonshire Council-managed car parks in and around the town will be free all day at weekends from November 20 and from 3pm on weekdays until January 1.

Cllr Lizzy Bowen, the council's cabinet member for town centre regeneration and growth, said: “There are some wonderful independent stores in Northampton and some popular national brands, so everyone should be able to find that special something for their loved ones, along with a range of stocking fillers.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“I hope people will join us in keeping their spend local and backing the economy in West Northamptonshire, which will in turn support our friends, family and neighbours who own or run these businesses.”

Privately-run car parks such as NCP's in St Peter's Way are not included in the free parking scheme.

November 20 is also the date earmarked for the big switch-on of Northampton's Christmas lights.

The event, which was cancelled last year during the Covid-19 pandemic, starts at 2pm with stage entertainment before Father Christmas throws the switch at 5pm.

Cllr Bowen added: "“We were unable to bring people together for this event last year, so we’re really excited to invite everyone to join us on Saturday.

“It’s always a lovely event and really signals the start of the Christmas period — and who better to do the honours than the big man himself!”

Saturday's switch-on could be the last in the Market Square before an £8.4million regeneration project gets under way in 2022, work on which is likely to take two years.

Parking is already free in the town centre on Sundays and the Christmas plan falls well short of pleas to scrap charges completely in a bid to drum up business.

Independent councillor Julie Davenport put a motion before September's council meeting which said: "This council understands the huge negative impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on local businesses.

"WNC aims to support its local businesses. Our residents and council ask the executive to investigate the options including free car parking, for car parking in all council owned car parks, and to continue looking at other initiatives to improve and stimulate our town centres.”

Town centre traders in shops and on the market have begged the council to offer more free parking in a bid to encourage shoppers back after lockdown.

One veteran stall holder compared Northampton to Chernobyl after the closure of major stores Debenhams and Sainsbury during 2021.

Fruit and veg trader Eamonn "Fitzy" Fitzpatrick said: "It's like flogging a dead horse here. There are no shops to come here for. I've been here 58 years and I have never seen such a decline.

"We need to provide free parking in the town, lower rents for market traders and abolish business rates if they want to regenerate."

These are the 20 council-run car parks where you can park for free from 3pm on weekdays and all day at weekends from November 20:

Shoppers car parks — Grosvenor Centre, St MIchaels, St Johns, Mayorhold.

Short stay — Commercial Street South, Ridings, Wellington Street.

Long stay — Abington Place, Albion Place, Newlands, Campbell Square, Upper Mounts, Commercial Street, Horsemarket, Market Street, Horsefair, Marefair, Chalk Lane, Doddridge Street, Midsummer Meadow, Melbourne Street.