THE free Christmas parking scheme in Bournemouth will be extended this year, following concerns about the impact the A338 roadworks could have on businesses.

In a bid to encourage more shoppers into the town centre, the council will be waiving charges at more of its facilities and on more days than it did in 2017.

Free parking will also be made available in the town to tie in with the Christmas Tree Wonderland event and Black Friday.

The move follows discussions between Bournemouth council and business representatives, partly prompted by fears that congestion on the A338 as part of its roadworks project could have a big impact on festive trade.

Town Centre BID chairman, Martin Davies, said that the expansion of the scheme would be “another strong enhancement” to the Christmas offering.

“Many of our town centre businesses have expressed the need for increased free parking provisions this Christmas period,” he said.

“Acting on their behalf, the BID discussed this with Bournemouth Borough Council who were positively responsive to our request.

“Complimenting the Christmas Tree Wonderland and other town centre attractions, the increase in free car parking represents another strong enhancement to Bournemouth town centre’s superb visitor experience this Christmas.”

As was the case last year, the Richmond Gardens multi-storey, Richmond Hill, Eden Glen, Central, Winter Gardens, Braidley Road Bridge, West Hill, Town Hall Forecourt, Town Hall Extension, Town Hall Annexe and 9-11 St Stephens Road will all be free of charge and for this year the council has agreed to also include its Avenue Road facility.

Charges will be waived every Sunday and after 4pm every Thursday from November 25 through until Christmas – one day more than in 2017.

And the council has also agreed to further extend the scheme to 4pm-midnight on Friday, November 16 and Friday, November 23 to tie in with the Christmas Tree Wonderland and Black Friday events respectively.

Council leader, John Beesley, said: “We are pleased to have been part of the ongoing, constructive and open dialogue with Bournemouth Town Centre BID about the pressures traders and retailers currently face.

“We also recognise that most rely on the crucial Christmas period for trading.

“Already working with the BID to offer fabulous and exciting new Christmas attractions this year, we are pleased to extend that support to increase the Christmas car parking offer in Bournemouth.

“I very much hope this will lead to an upturn in town centre visitors to shop, eat, relax and generally soak up our amazing festive atmosphere.”

Although a Christmas pause is scheduled to start on December 10, businesses have been highly critical of the council’s A338 roadworks, run in conjunction with Dorset County Council, and of the impact it could have on the Christmas trade in the town.

In response, the council has agreed to also offer free parking from 6pm-midnight every evening between November 16 and December 10 at its Madeira Road and Avenue Road multi-storey car parks.