PARKING in Ledbury town centre will now be free after a U-turn by Herefordshire Council.

Previously, we had reported that parking charges had come back into force from Monday June 15 in Herefordshire Council's car parks, which Ledbury’s mayor called “perverse” due to shops re-opening and desperately needing customers following months of closure during lockdown.

However, Herefordshire Council is now offering free parking on street and its car parks from tomorrow (Saturday, June 27) until Friday, July 24, to support local businesses.

Cllr John Harrington, cabinet member for infrastructure and transport, at the county council, said: “After listening to the concerns expressed by parish and town councils, by ward members and particularly those from businesses and Hereford BID, I’ve taken the decision to reintroduce free parking for four weeks, to help give retailers and the hospitality trade a much needed boost at this critical time.

“Herefordshire Council has made a commitment to support local business, encourage people to visit our historic city and market towns, and buy locally.

“We hope to be able to follow this with a scheme later in the year with incentives to encourage people to stay for longer for less money, encouraging them to spend more time supporting our retail and hospitality outlets, particularly our independent businesses.”

Mayor of Ledbury, Councillor Phillip Howells, welcomed the move.

He said: “It’s always good when political leaders listen to traders and councillors and I’m very happy that Herefordshire Council has suspended parking charges for the time being, which will encourage more shoppers and really boost morale with the traders in Ledbury.”

Caroline Green, chair of the Ledbury Traders Association, said: “This is great and I’m glad they’ve listened to us.

“I understand all councils need to generate revenue, but this will give us a kick start and shoppers will now be able to relax, not having to worry about how long is left on their ticket. Hopefully visitors will spend more money in the shops and boost the local economy after such a terrible time.”

Cllr Harrington added: “Like every other council across the country, we have parking charges for several good reasons. Charges help us to encourage people to travel in a different way, by walking or cycling for example.

“For those that want to or must drive, varying those charges allows us to encourage shoppers and other visitors to park outside the urban centres by charging them less for staying longer, whilst those that want to park right in the centres are expected to pay more - charges keep spaces turning over especially in the city and town centres.”

“After years of austerity and with challenging financial times ahead, we cannot afford to provide free parking forever as we use this income to subsidise public transport and school buses.

“So, in the longer term we will be looking at other ways to encourage people to safely visit our wonderful city and historic market towns.

“There is an opportunity to look to do things in a different way while supporting local business.”

Resident parking and other restrictions will still be enforced as usual.