FREE parking will begin tomorrow in eight York car parks, with retailers hoping it will provide a big boost to city centre trade.

Residents and visitors will be able to park in the car parks – Nunnery Lane, Bishopthorpe Road, Castle Mills, Foss Bank, Marygate, Monk Bar, St George’s and Union Terrace – for free between 8am and 11am on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

City of York Council hopes the new scheme will assist city centre retailers following concerns about the impact of the opening in April of the Vangarde Shopping Park at Monks Cross which includes a newJohn Lewis store.

Adam Sinclair, City Team York chair and managing director of Mulberry Hall, said free parking would be excellent for customers and the public.

He added: “There is no question that the effects of Vangarde opening have caused difficulty for the city centre retailers.

“We have found footfall figures difficult but it is early days. This parking scheme will be an effective boost for the city centre and help generate activity in the mornings.”

Frank Wood, chair of the York Retail Forum, said: “We’re hoping to encourage people to come in early and then stay for the rest of the day.

“There were fears that the Vangarde Shopping Park would affect the city but I am not sure it has lived up to people’s expectations.”

David Cox, director of the Federation of Small Businesses, said he supported free parking on behalf of everyone in the city centre: “The scheme is a major step forward and we’re looking forward to seeing how it works.”

The free parking promotion was funded from section 106 money paid by the developers of the Vangarde centre as part of their planning permission agreement.

It was due to begin on May 26 but preparations were put on hold after Green and Liberal Democrat councillors called in the proposal for scrutiny at a meeting in May.

Cllr David Levene, cabinet member for transport, said yesterday: “After working with local businesses, we’re delighted to be launching the free parking trial tomorrow to help grow the city centre offer and ensure it stays busy and vibrant throughout the week.”