FREE parking has been launched in York city centre to encourage more people to visit and shop, writes Fiona Parker.

The initiative, which applies to eight council-owned car parks between 8am and 11am on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, was given a muted welcome by motorists benefitting yesterday.

Graham Thompson, of Copmanthorpe, said: “I think it will definitely help. I heard about this in The Press yesterday. Parking prices are definitely a factor which discourage people.”

But Hazel Ratcliffe said: “Eight o clock is a bit early. Most of the shops aren’t open until 9am. It’s an hour wasted.”

Gillian Haggyard, of Bishopthorpe Road, said: “I come into town on Friday morning so that would be a great help, although the one we use, Piccadilly, isn’t on the list. I think it would make a difference.” Cllr David Levene, cabinet member for transport at City of York Council, said the policy demonstrated the authority’s commitment to on maintaining an increase in city centre footfall.

Retailer Adam Sinclair, who chairs the City Team, said city-centre businesses were being invited to embrace the initiative by coming up with imaginative “early bird” offers and help share the message to customers.