SHOPPERS will be treated to free parking in council-run car parks as part of a determined drive to revive trade in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

All council-run car parks across Southend will be free on Thursdays after 4pm for late-night shopping and all day on Sundays until Christmas.

In Basildon, all visitors to the council's car parks will be able to park for up to three hours free of charge between 8am and 6pm throughout December.

All council car parks are free to use overnight, from 6pm to 8am, no matter the duration of use, along with being free all day Saturday and Sunday. Normal charges will resume on the 4 January 2021.

The move is designed to give Christmas shoppers an added incentive to return to town centres, promoting the “shop local” agenda.

In Southend, the free Christmas parking offer starts today and runs up to and including Christmas Eve.

In previous years, the festive offer has only applied to car parks in Southend town centre, but to businesses across the town this festive season, the council has decided to expand the scheme across the town.

Cllr Ron Woodley, cabinet member for transport said: “The Christmas period is important for local traders and that is why we are keen to once again offer our free festive parking on Thursday evenings and Sundays.

“This offer has proven very popular in recent years and I am pleased to be able to offer this once again and also extend it to all council owned car parks across the borough.

He underlined the improttance of social distancing as they return to town centres following the latest coronavirus lockdown.

Mr Woodley added: “I would like to take this opportunity to remind all residents and visitors to enjoy the Borough safely by adhering to the current regulations and restrictions whilst doing their festive shopping.

“Following the Government announcement that non-essential shops will reopen this week, it’s important that whilst we support our businesses and help boost the local economy, we all continue to work together to reduce the spread of the virus.

Basildon Council’s chairman of the neighbourhoods and public spaces committee, David Harrison, said: "We want residents to be able to access their local shops this Christmas, and we want to support our high streets. Providing three hours of free access to council car parks is a big way we can help with this.”

New drive to ‘shop local’ to help battle against Covid-19

Shoppers are being encouraged to “Shop Local” and support Southend-based businesses in the run up to Christmas. 

In preparation for the anticipated rush of Christmas shoppers, Southend Council has been working closely with businesses to boost the economy as the borough battles back from the effects of Covid-19. 

As part of these plans, the council is spearheading a range of new initiatives including:
n The relaunch of “Shop Local” campaign, which coincides with the change in the Government’s national restrictions and sees Southend entering the new Tier 2 restrictions. While observing social distancing and other safety measures such as wearing face coverings, shoppers are being encouraged to visit shops in Southend, supporting the economy and keeping people in jobs. 

Shoppers are asked to promote their support for businesses on social media, using #ShopLocal and #ShopSouthendonSea, and tag the shops people have visited.

A new drive to encourage people to shop in Southend via the Click and Collect service featured on the VisitSouthend website. 
The council has been working with businesses to develop a business directory which allows businesses in the borough to sign up for free if they offer a click and collect service. 

Shoppers can easily navigate through the list and shop with local traders.
Kevin Robinson, Labour Southend Council cabinet member for business, said: “We are doing everything we can to provide the support our local businesses need. 
“I am pleased to see that free parking is once again available for residents and visitors after 4pm on Thursdays, to support late night shopping, and all-day Sundays in December and this year this will be in all council-owned car parks across the borough. 
“The council has been meeting regularly with key representatives from the main shopping areas to find out how we can work more closely together, and to provide support and promote our local shops and businesses. 

“I would ask all visitors to ensure they adhere to guidance around social distancing and sanitise hands when entering and leaving the stores to help prevent the spread of the virus.

“I also hope that all of our local businesses that are able to provide a click and collect service, sign up to the directory, and I hope local residents make use of this too and support local businesses.”