Council chiefs are taking “great pains” to avoid a repeat of chaos and confusion that marred a pioneering free Christmas parking scheme in Perth and Kinross.
Car parks across the region were opened free-of-charge on Saturdays throughout December in 2017, as part of a campaign to get till bells ringing in the run-up to Christmas.
As councillors get ready to approve details of this year’s scheme, a new study reveals the initiative was overwhelmingly supported by traders, with many reporting a positive impact on their business.
But changes will be made this time round, after more than 330 motorists were ticketed for parking in areas which were not part of the promotion.
There was criticism the campaign was misleading and it was not made clear which sites were free.
Members of the environment and infrastructure committee will be told next week that “all steps” will be taken to make the promotion crystal clear.
Payment machines will be covered up at participating car parks, while a video will be posted on social media to let shoppers know which sites are available.
Councillors will also hear that although 84% of retailers who took part in a survey said the promotion had a “positive impact” on trade, footfall across the region actually fell by 4.5%.
Dawn Fuge, who co-chairs the local traders association, said: “It was a very successful event and I’m looking forward to it coming back.
“I was surprised to hear that footfall was down, because the general feeling was that the city was much busier on those Saturdays. It also encouraged people to stick around for longer, maybe stay the weekend instead of just parking for an hour.”
She said: “We will be taking great pains to make sure it is very clear where you can and cannot park this time. A lot of people were caught out last year and we don’t want that to happen again.
“It’s shaping up to be a really good Christmas for Perth. Things really seem to have picked up in the last year or so.”
Kinross-shire Lib Dem councillor Willie Robertson, who criticised the plan last year, said: “If you tell people there’s free parking, then you book drivers for not buying a ticket, then that doesn’t seem fair. Its not a very nice Christmas present.
“I’m very please to hear that they are making changes to make things clearer for shoppers. We should be encouraging more people to come, not deterring them.”
A report by performance and support manager Hunter Hope suggests the promotion will cost the council around £25,000 in lost revenue.
She added: “Evidence from the Perth Traders Association shows that the lower footfall does not necessary equate to lower sales. In fact some businesses reported that they had strong December trading in 2017.
“The key learning from last year’s promotion was related to taking all steps possible through communication and engagement to make it clearer what the parking offer is, and which locations are included and excluded.”
A total of 28 car parks will be participating, but on-street sites at Perth’s Cherry Lane, Union Street, Black Watch Gardens and Victoria Street will not be free.