SHOPPERS could be boosted by an early Christmas present following a move to restore free parking in the town centre.
The proposal was put forward by borough council leader Justin Madders during an environment committee meeting on Thursday and was unanimously supported by councillors.
They are now hoping to push the scheme through in time for the festive period.
The move would see the main town centre car park made completely free, although there would be a four-hour limit due to an existing agreement in place with Asda.
At the meeting councillors had originally been asked to consider a proposal for free parking after 3pm.
Independent politicians Jonathan Starkey, John Wilson and Henny Moore launched a campaign back in August, with the support of market traders and the Port Arcades, in a bid to attract more visitors to the town in the afternoon.
More than 7,000 people signed a petition backing the move.
In response to the proposal, Cllr Madders raised concerns that the move may shift trade from the morning to the free afternoon period at which point he went on to reveal plans to scrap the car parking charges completely.
He said there was enough reserves in the budget to make the move possible, which is likely to cost in the region of £140,000.
After the meeting the Independents hailed the move as a “victory for the people” and thanked the public for their support during the campaign.
They are calling on council officers and councillors to do the necessary work to get the scheme implemented in time for Christmas.
Brian Hannaway, secretary of the Market Traders’ Federation, said: “We would like to thank Cllr Madders and his colleagues on this brave and bold decision which goes further than we could have hoped for.
“We warmly welcome this move and would like to thank all those who have helped to bring this about.”
Port Arcades centre manager Les Lyon says the move will be a “big boost” for both businesses and customers, particularly if it’s operating before Christmas.