Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen is introducing free parking in town centres across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool in the new year to make it easier, cheaper and more convenient for people to support their high streets.
Mayor Houchen is to make parking free for a minimum of two hours up to a maximum of three hours in council-run car parks in each of the five Tees Valley main town centres – Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Stockton, as well as a number of car parks in Guisborough and Yarm.
The free town centre parking will be introduced from January 2021 to encourage more people to support shops, cafes and other businesses in their town centres and high streets when coronavirus restrictions allow them to safely do so.
All five local authorities approved the introduction of free parking this morning (November 27). As part of the scheme, the revenue local authorities receive from car parking charges will be compensated, so none of them will be financially impacted and no local services will be affected. Funding for free parking has been allocated for two years.
Mayor Houchen said: “When I first announced my intention to introduce free parking in major town centres across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool, I did so because our high streets were in desperate need of a helping hand. Now, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has only worsened the situation.
“Our retail and hospitality businesses in our town centres have been some of the hardest hit, so when it is safe for people to return to shops, cafes and restaurants, we need to make it as easy and convenient as possible for people to give them the vital support they need.
“Nobody likes paying for parking and it is one of the main reasons I constantly hear as to why people aren’t shopping in town centres. By making it free, we can increase the number of people visiting our high streets and therefore increase their spending, boost our economy and help support jobs.
“It has been an incredibly sad sight to see shops, cafes and businesses closed in our high streets this year, and as we come out of the other side from the pandemic next year, we don’t want these sights to remain, so it is vital we do everything we can to help them.
“Everyone across our region deserves a vibrant and thriving high street that can still flourish in the age of online shopping. They are the lifeblood of our area and introducing free parking can help make them an even more dynamic and vibrant place to live and do business.”