SHOPPERS and visitors are now able to take advantage of free parking in Bournemouth town centre in the run-up to Christmas.

The initiative started last night coincide with the launch of Bournemouth’s Christmas Tree Wonderland trail which runs from the seafront and through the town centre.

Free parking is available every evening from 6pm until midnight in Madeira Road car park and Avenue Road car park until December 10.

Bournemouth Borough Council’s yearly provision of free car parking on Sundays and Thursday nights will return in selected car parks but this year it will also include the Avenue Road car park.

Free parking will be available all day on Sundays on December  9, 16 and 23.

There will also be free parking on Thursday nights from 4pm on December 13 and 20.

The car parks included are Avenue Road, Richmond Gardens Multi-Storey, Eden Glen, Central, Richmond Hill, Winter Gardens, Braidley Road Bridge and West Hill.

Plus, Town Hall Forecourt, Town Hall Extension, Town Hall Annexe, and 9/11 St Stephens Road.

In total, there will be 35 days where free parking is available this year.

Bournemouth Council and Bournemouth Town Centre BID agreed on the initiative following concerns over the impact of lane restrictions on the A338.

Martin Davies, town centre BID chairman, said: “Many of our town centre businesses have expressed the need for increased free parking provisions this Christmas period. Acting on their behalf, the BID discussed this with Bournemouth Borough Council who were positively responsive to our request.”

Leader of the council, Cllr 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.”