FREE evening parking could soon start an hour earlier in Fareham town centre thanks to council efforts to boost late-night shopping.
The motion is set to go before council leader Sean Woodward for approval on Monday and, if given the go ahead, will see free parking start at 5pm every Thursday.
Fareham Shopping Centre manager Mike Taylor put the request in to the council to help boost the centre’s late night offer, which sees most of its shops stay open until 7pm on Thursdays.
The motion was welcomed by shoppers in Fareham town centre on Friday.
Rich Mayor, 29, of West Street, Fareham, said he would like to see free parking everyday after 5pm. He added: ‘That would be amazing.’
Will Stevenson, 30, of Lee-on-the-Solent, said: ‘Anything that is free is always better.’
Samantha Walker and Helen Dallinger, 32, of Portchester, said the initiative would encourage them to give late night shopping a go.
Ms Walker, 42, said: ‘Thursday nights is new to us, I’d be tempted to come in. Free parking should happen more – Saturdays would be nice.’
Centre manager Mr Taylor said: ‘I’m really pleased that people are welcoming of the idea and I hope it will improve the offer we give to our customers.’
Cllr Woodward will decide at Monday’s executive meeting whether to implement the free parking in two car parks – Osborn Road and the shopping centre multi-storey – or to extend it to three, including Market Quay.
The estimated annual loss to the council for the two car parks is £2,250, and £11,530 including Market Quay.
Cllr Woodward said he was pleased to be able to give the idea a trial and that he hoped it would improve the vibrancy of the town centre.
Leader of the Lib Dem opposition Cllr Paul Whittle also welcomed the motion.
He said; ‘Although I think this is a step in the right direction, I am not sure why they cannot do this every day.’
Labour spokesman Richard Ryan said his party wanted to see free parking from 3pm each weekday.
He said: ‘We’re pleased that something free is happening.
‘It does not go anywhere near what we campaigned for at the last election, which was to be free everyday from 3pm.
‘That would encourage a lot more people to come into the town centre, which is suffering from the recession and with Whiteley being free all the time.’