NCP Octagon Car park

Bolton Council considers suspending free town centre parking

  • Bolton council meets to discuss suspension of free town centre parking 

Councillors in Bolton say the current provision for free parking in the town centre is not economically sustainable.

At a meeting to discuss the issue, councillors heard there was a cost burden to the council for providing free parking and that money was needed to regenerate the town centre.

The town centre parking scheme has been running for 10 years and was introduced in the summer of 2012 to encourage people to come into the town centre and support local businesses.

It was due to end in July 2021 but was extended due to the pandemic.

Since the scheme was active the town has seen a rise in the number of people travelling into the town centre and an increase in expenditure in local businesses. 

Bolton invested £1m into the scheme at the start of Covid-19, with £839,00 being spent on two hours of free parking and free parking at all NCP car parks across the town.

Councillor Nicholas Peel said revoking parking would have a negative effect on the town centre.

“Although we are not dismissing the financial factor behind why the free parking was suspended, we do have to say that businesses in the town centre will be affected greatly by the lack of free parking around the vicinity. With this, we ask how this will affect shop turn over?” he said.

The NCP Octagon is the main focus for free parking in the town centre, giving easy access to recently refurbished Newport Street, as well as being across the road from Morrisons.

Councillor Peel added: “The further consequences of suspending the free town-centre car parking were never published into the report.

“Therefore, the public and business owners who come forward to the council asking how this will affect their way of life and income will not be able to get an exact answer.”

Councillor Martyn Cox asked the council to commission a report into the pros and cons of free parking before making a hasty decision.

Conservative Councillor Adele Warren said that although the parking does have ‘free’ in the title over the past nine yearsthe council had spent £852,000 per year on the upkeep of the car parks. Such money had been diverted from other vital services such as the upkeep of library services.

The suspension of free car parking would see Bolton fall in line with the other boroughs in Greater Manchester, for example, Bury, which has suspended its free car parking scheme.