FREE car parking for York residents could be extended under plans to bring the city centre to life in the evenings.

A task group wants City of York Council officials to look into making council-run car parks free from 5pm instead of the current 6pm and to keep them open longer. They also call for later Park&Ride services and more late-night shopping.

The group also said cutting city-centre speed limits to 20mph or lower and adding more speed cameras should be considered to make walking and cycling safer, although this issue was not in the group’s original remit and no studies have been carried out.

The task group included Coun Anna Semlyen, a 20mph campaigner who replaced Coun Keith Hyman during the review, as well as Green councillor Andy D’Agorne and Labour councillor Neil Barnes.

The council is looking to improve York’s vibrancy in the evenings, particularly addressing a “lull” between 5pm and 7pm.

The authority announced yesterday that it will scrap charges at 13 car parks for residents and visitors next Saturday as a one-day move to help traders, but the group and city-centre traders have suggested permanent changes.

Nick Brown, managing director of Browns department store, said the authority should introduce pay-on-exit parking and consider making the first two hours of parking free, as Chester has done.

The task group’s recommendations, which will be discussed next week, include further talks with the Coppergate Shopping Centre over late-night shopping. It said the Jorvik Centre and other attractions could support this by opening later, and clothing giant Primark – which is to open in Piccadilly – should be approached so its arrival can be a “catalyst”.

The group said dates for late-night opening by autumn should be fixed and a marketing campaign launched, while transport officials and Park&Ride operators should discuss running later buses and discounts on these days.

City centre car park opening times could also be extended to 8.30pm most days and until 11.30pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

Next Saturday’s free parking covers the car parks in Bishopthorpe Road, Bootham Row, Castle, Castle Mills, Esplanade, Foss Bank, Haymarket, Marygate, Monk Bar, Nunnery Lane, Piccadilly, St George’s Field and Union Terrace.

City council leader James Alexander said this was a quiet time of year for city centre businesses and said the council had promised to work on a parking initiative to help.

David Cox, national councillor for the Federation Of Small Businesses, said the initiative would help small, specialist retailers during a slow trading time.

Meanwhile, Mr Brown said it was still unclear how millions of pounds paid to the council by the developers of the Vangarde Shopping Park at Monks Cross, intended to help the city centre, would be used.

“This money was supposed to act as a defence mechanism for the city centre when it takes an initial hit because of the curiosity value and newness of ‘Monks Cross II’, before settling down,” he said.

He said pay-on-exit car parks would prevent people having to dash back to their car because their parking time was running out, and he said providing two hours’ parking free would help level the playing field between the city-centre and out-of-town shopping centres.