Christmas comes early for Perth shopkeepers with free Saturday parking plan

© DC Thomson
Crowds at a previous Perth Christmas lights switch-on.

Free Saturday parking could set till bells ringing across Perth this Christmas.

Fair City businesses have welcomed Perth and Kinross Council’s move to open up its car parks free-of-charge each Saturday throughout December.

The idea was first mooted by the Perth Traders Association, which believes it will help lure more shoppers and visitors into the area.

With no charges for parking on Sundays, it means drivers can park for free at council-run sites for the whole weekend. The initiative, which will cost the council around £25,000, only applies to car parks and not on-street parking.

It is an expansion of the “Free After 2pm” festive parking campaign which has been running in the city since 2013.

There is no evidence previous attempts to offer free afternoon parking actually worked, with shopkeepers saying they saw no boost in trade but Dawn Fuge, who co-chairs the local traders association, said free all-day parking could be a game-changer.

“This will give Perth its unique selling point,” she said. “As far as I know, there is no other major city which offers free parking like this.

“The Free-After-2pm was fine, but people found it confusing. Also, there did not seem to be an upsurge in the number of people who came through the door after 2pm. That just didn’t happen.

“Offering all-day parking is a lot more simple and straightforward,” she said. “It will also encourage people to stay for the whole weekend, stay in hotels or guesthouses and go out to restaurants and bars.”

She said it also meant shoppers would not have to rush back to their cars before their meter ran out. “That has become a very common complaint,” she said.

Ms Fuge said shopkeepers and staff would not take up the free parking bays themselves. “That would be counter-productive,” she said.

The move was welcomed by members of the council’s environment, enterprise and infrastructure committee, although Labour councillor Alasdair Bailey had reservations over the price.

“I have grave concerns about the loss of income, given that we have no information about whether this will actually work,” he said.

Convener Colin Stewart said: “We should look on this as a gesture of goodwill to the traders, as well as all the people who want to spent more time in Perth.”

Because it was held three days a week, the previous Free-After-2pm initiative actually cost the council more money — around £40,000 — the committee was told.

The free parking campaign begins on December 2.