The towns and cities offering free parking over festive period as they battle to bring shoppers in
Free parking will be offered in parts of the region over the festive period as town and city centres battle to bring in shoppers in the run-up to Christmas.
Council bosses say they hope the measure will be a shot in the arm for businesses and help people during the cost of living crisis, although some have suggested it doesn't go far enough.
It comes as cities and towns will have to fight for customers who may shun them for shopping centres such as Merry Hill in Brierley Hill, which offers more than 10,000 free parking spaces, or the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in Cannock, which has free car parking all year round.
In Wolverhampton city centre, the council has announced there will be free parking all day on Sundays, beginning this Sunday, up until and including Sunday, January 7 – apart from on Christmas Eve, when normal charges will apply.
There will also be free parking in the city centre after 3pm on December 13 and after 3pm every day from Monday to Friday from December 18, up to and including January 5.
Drivers parking on those days before 3pm will only need to pay for parking to cover until 3pm.
The offer applies at car parks in School Street, Peel Street, Market Car Park, Fold Street, Bell Street, Temple Street, Snow Hill Market and Tempest Street.
In Wednesfield town, there will be free all-day parking every day until and including January 7 – no ticket or RingGo parking session is required.
It includes Woodhouse Fold Car Park A, B and C as well as Alfred Squire Road Car Park.
Councillor Craig Collingswood, Wolverhampton Council’s cabinet member for environment and climate change, said: “With the current cost of living crisis and money not going as far as it used to for everyone at the moment, I am pleased that the city council is able to help with these car parking offers."
But there has been some criticism to the plans.
Some people took to social media claiming it will "bring nothing to the centre of Wolverhampton" and one described the offer of free parking only after 3pm was an "absolute joke".
Elsewhere, shoppers will be able to park for free at Sandwell Council’s town centre car parks on all Saturdays in December.
This year, the council is extending its free parking offer for Saturdays in December – which in previous years saw drivers able to park for free on the two Saturdays before Christmas.
It means parking is now free in all council town centre car parks on all five Saturdays in December.
Free parking does not include Sandwell Valley car parks, privately-run car parks and on-street parking bays.
Time limits on short stay car parks still apply.
Sunday parking is already free in the council’s town centre car parks.
Councillor Danny Millard, Sandwell Council's cabinet member for environment and highways, said: "We have introduced free parking in council town centre car parks on every Saturday during December to support town centre shopping during the most important trading month of the year.
“In previous years, we only had free parking on the two Saturdays before Christmas, so by extending this to all of the Saturdays in December it will help more people take advantage of free parking to shop locally."
Councils in other areas have chosen not to offer festive parking deals.
Walsall Council said there had been no increase in parking charges for a number of years and the last time there was a change, it was to introduce a temporary 25 per cent reduction in charge which, due to the impact of Covid and the wider economic picture, has remained to this day.
"The council is by far the minority provider of parking in Walsall at just over 20 per cent and historically any offer of free parking has not been replicated by the private parking providers or resulted in any significant change to occupation levels in council car parks," a council spokesman added.
Dudley Council said it already offered two free hours as standard in its council car parks.
Further afield, in Telford town centre, parking is free from 5pm every Thursday, and parking on Sunday is a flat rate of £2 across all car parks.
The centre is open for late-night shopping on Thursdays and Fridays (9am to 8pm) and Saturdays (9am to 8pm) until Monday, December 18 when the centre opens late every evening except Sunday in the lead-up to Christmas.