Free parking in Bishop's Stortford town centre as retail reopens
Free parking will be on offer this month as business support body Bishop's Stortford BID works with East Herts Council to entice shoppers back to the town centre.
The offer, financed by the BID (Business Improvement District) and its Discover Stortford brand, will begin on Monday (April 12), when non-essential retailers are allowed to reopen in accordance with Prime Minister Boris Johnson's roadmap easing Covid-19 restrictions.
Throughout the month, drivers will be able to use the main Causeway car park for free from 3pm each Monday and Tuesday afternoon.
The BID board hopes its 'Discover & Save' initiative will have dual benefits by encouraging those still concerned about coronavirus to visit the town centre at off-peak times and allowing other shoppers to linger longer than usual.
Delivering a free parking plan has been a central plank of the BID's business plan since it was inaugurated in 2018, and the tough year traders have suffered as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic only strengthened the BID's resolve to help.
The board has been working with EHC to iron out issues after an earlier initiative called 'Free After 3', proposed for October and November last year, was blocked by the district council. Elected members were concerned it might hamper ultimately unsuccessful efforts to qualify as one of Herts County Council's sustainable travel towns.
BID manager Gina Thomas said: "As we look towards the reopening of businesses, the BID is delighted to have found a way to deliver a parking initiative to help increase footfall during a traditionally quieter time."
She said the aim was to encourage people to "take the time to walk a little further up the road, browse a little longer in store, enjoy a coffee etc".
Shoppers who use the Causeway payment machines to check in for a flexible visit will be automatically checked out at 3pm on Mondays and Tuesdays to ensure they benefit from the free parking offer along with those who would normally buy a pay-and-display ticket.
The Causeway, with 241 spaces, offers drivers free parking for up to 30 minutes at any time of the day and after 6.30pm.
Charges begin at 80p for an hour, and shoppers could save up to £2.90 if they park for the BID-funded maximum of 3.5 hours and avoid the four-hour tariff.
The scheme is set to end on Tuesday May 11, but Gina said that if it was well received, the BID would ask East Herts to extend until May 17, when pubs, restaurants and cafés can serve customers indoors once more.
As well as the free parking, the BID has funded further hand sanitiser, floor stickers and tape to help its levy payers stay Covid-secure. It has also paid for safety checks to reassure staff and shoppers that outlets are following rules.