DRIVERS will be able to park in York car parks for free on three mornings a week, under new plans to boost the city centre.

Officials at City of York Council will announce on Tuesday that residents and visitors can park for free in eight car parks between 8am and 11am on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Businesses are being urged to come up with "early-bird" promotions to take advantage of the move and boost trade.

The news comes just days after the council abandoned the traffic ban on Lendal Bridge, which many traders said damaged business. 

Coun Dave Merrett, council cabinet member for transport, said the council had worked closely in the past six months with City Team York, the Retail Forum, the Federation of Small Businesses and other key businesses, to look at improving car access to the city centre.

He said: "As part of these discussions the groups have concluded that the city should look at incentivising residents and visitors into the city centre, particularly at the weekend.”

The promotion will begin on May 26 and cover the Nunnery Lane, Bishopthorpe Road, Castle Mills, Foss Bank, Marygate, Monk Bar, St George’s Field and Union Terrace car parks.

It will initially run for a year, funded from section 106 money paid by the developers of the Vanguarde centre at Monks Cross as part of their planning permission agreement.

The move has been welcomed by the York Retail Forum, which was critical of the closure of Lendal Bridge.

Frank Wood, forum chair, said: “We have to make York accessible for every form of transport and it’s vitally important we have accessible parking.  If you are coming into town in a car, York is open for business.”

The council said it had also worked with Fenwick's, Brown's, Mulberry Hall, M&S, Barnitts, HSBC, John Lewis Partnership, land owners and developers on the project.

It also plans to introduce a business permit scheme and a trial of ‘Pay on Exit’ car parking at Marygate, which is seen as encouraging people to stay in the centre for longer.

Adam Sinclair, City Team York chair, said city-centre businesses were invited to "embrace the initiative by coming up with imaginative 'early-bird' offers and help share the message with customers.” 

David Cox, director of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “This is the first of many changes that we can make by working together. I hope we can extend free parking times beyond this initial step as work on obtaining funding for our initiatives progresses.”