CAR parks in one area of Oxfordshire will remain free for shoppers dipping into town, a council had decided.

Vale of White Horse District Council’s cabinet, its most senior councillors, decided at their meeting this month to keep a two-hour free parking allowance at its car parks.

A statement from the council said it was 'prioritising supporting local businesses recovering from Covid-19 ahead of addressing the council’s own longer-term financial pressures'.

Neighbouring South Oxfordshire District Council, which shares back office staff with the Vale, agreed to hike prices on car parks by 20p this month.

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And the Vale's own parking fees will be hiked by 40p later in the year for people parking more than two hours.

Earlier this month, the Vale's cabinet considered a range of options for the district’s council car parks.

After listening to feedback from local residents and businesses, Cabinet members unanimously agreed to retain two hours free parking across the district.

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Debby Hallett

Debby Hallett, deputy leader at Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “In the longer term we need to reduce the running costs of our car parks and encourage a shift from using private cars towards active travel and public transport.

"But in the short term, with many people concerned about using public transport, we want to support our local town centres and small businesses as they recover from the impact of Covid-19. Therefore, parking will remain free for the first two hours each day.”

But she added: “However, it is important that we do begin to address our parking deficit and so, from later this year, it is necessary for us to raise fees for parking over two hours and increase charges for permit holders. We expect that this will bring in around £48,000 a year which is an important first step towards meeting this financial challenge.”

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At the meeting, the cabinet agreed a 40p fee increase and ten per cent parking permit increase.

The council expects to have these new charges rolled out by December.

A discount on parking permits for residents is also being phased out over a four-year period from the end of 2020. They will no longer be sold from October.