Free on-street parking will continue in Burton until Christmas as shops attempt to recover following the St Peter’s Bridge closure, council bosses have revealed.
Staffordshire County Council has said its maintained car parks – Lichfield Street and Manor Croft near the market hall - will remain free for vehicles to park to encourage shoppers back to Burton following a slump in trade due to the three-month closure of St Peter's Bridge for repair work.
However, vehicles parking in the nine car parks operated by East Staffordshire Borough Council will still have to pay in the countdown to Christmas as they have done during the bridge closure.
The bridge was closed to allow for urgent repairs of rusted bearings. Not replacing the bearings would have meant the bridge, a main route in and out of town over the River Trent, would have had to to shut permanently. The bridge closed on August 29 and was due to be closed until the end of November but opened ahead of schedule on Friday, November 1o, after the work was completed.
The Burton Mail has asked the county and borough councils if they would consider waiving car parking charges in the town until the closure of Burton Bridge which is expected to be in the summer - and this was the response.
James Weeks, owner of The Dial bar and restaurant, in Station Street, had wanted to see free car parking on a wider scale, after his takings dipped dramatically during the bridge closure.
Staffordshire County Council's cabinet member responsible for highways Mark Deaville said: "We’re doing all we can to support local businesses and are pleased reopening the bridge well ahead of schedule has had a positive impact already. Free-on street parking, which we brought in at the request of businesses, will continue until Christmas and then be reviewed. We have also launched our Be Vocal About Local campaign."
However, the borough council said that while it will not waive its car parking fees, shoppers are able to park for free after 3pm every day at its car parks at Coopers Square, Burton Place, and also at The Maltings in Uttoxeter.
A council spokesman said: "The council has not been approached directly with a request to offer some free parking until the next bridge closure, however shoppers can take advantage of the council’s free after 3pm car park scheme in both Burton and Uttoxeter.
"We will continue to review how car park charging can be used to support local businesses and encourage people to shop in our towns."
The council also said it hopes its Christmas lights switch-on event will have provided another boost to Burton town centre businesses.
why the new St Peter's Bridge surface feels not so smooth
Staffordshire County Council also came in for criticism from Burton Mail readers claiming the newly-refurbished bridge was not smooth enough.
The county council spokesman said: "The road surface contains pre-coated chippings meaning it lasts much longer, though this may not appear to be as smooth as other surfaces. It will mean though that it will be a longer period of time before it needs replacing. There is still ongoing work under the bridge that does not affect traffic and our current monitoring shows we are on budget with the St Peter’s Bridge repairs."