Free car parking at Bedford’s Allhallows car park could be extended after town centre footfall increased over the initial trial period.
Bedford mayor, Tom Wootton has signed an executive decision to approve four-hour free parking at Allhallows from 1 February to 31 March.
The decision document explains that the four hours free parking aims to encourage more customers into the town centre to use the local shops and businesses.
The current four-hour free parking project started on August 1, 2023 and is due to close at the end of January.
A report of the trial’s findings is due in March 2024.
An appendix to the executive decision suggests an increase of over 30,000 cars parking in town centre car parks, an increase in town centre footfall and “no quantifiable negative impact” on elements, such as air quality or public transport.
This is when compared to the same time periods in 2022 and 2023, and without and with the four hours free car parking respectively.
Although the decision was taken by the mayor last week, no action may be taken to implement it until the council’s head of members’ services has confirmed the decision has not been called in.
A “call in” is a scrutiny function and gives councillors the right to examine an executive decision that has been made but not yet implemented.
The earliest date this decision could be implemented if it isn’t called in is 1 February.
There is a proposal in the budget for 2024/2025 to extend free car parking for the full financial year.
The executive decision claimed there would be “confusion and frustration” with the current users of the free parking provision if the free parking trial is not extended as there would be a two-month period where parking charges would be reintroduced.
by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter