TRADERS are again pushing for year-round free parking in Bicester and Banbury following the initial success of a Christmas drive to pull in shoppers.

Cherwell District Council began six weeks of free parking in its car parks on Saturday, Sunday and Mondays at the weekend.

The council said car parks were 85 to 90 per cent full over the first three days but traders have already seized on the initiative to push for a permanent end to charges.

In Banbury more than 2,000 shoppers have signed a traders’ petition calling on free parking for three hours throughout the year. But the cash-strapped authority has ruled out further concessions, saying this would be too costly.

Kelly Bostock, manager at Dorothy Perkins, in Sheep Street, Bicester, said the weekend was “very busy”.

She said: “We had a lot of people talking about the free parking – it is definitely something that has worked.”

Rob Douglas, of the Bicester branch of Henry’s, said: “Other towns that do free parking really do well, all the ones that are crippled by parking fees do less well.

“It’s a good thing and would be great if it continues after Christmas, even if just at weekends. It does make a difference.”

Carol Munday, manager at Jane Shilton shoe shop in Parsons Street, Banbury, said: “The footfall was up on Saturday.

“It would be good if it was carried on, it would make a massive difference and would stop people going out of town.”

Fay Bryan, of nearby Kt-Lu’s boutique in the town, said: “I have had a few people say they have come in and spent more because they haven’t had to park.”

A year-round concession is vital, she said, adding: “I would say it has made a difference, more so probably on Monday.”

Wayne Kennedy, who runs Church Lane gift shop Fifth Corner, said: “If they want revenue to come back to the High Street they are going to have to put free parking in.”

But Peter Buggins, manager at Arthur Witcher menswear in Parsons Street, Banbury, said the offer had not had an impact on his sales.

He said: “I don’t know why not, I did expect it to be a success.”

Deputy council leader George Reynolds has said the authority will lose £100,000 it would have normally got from charges during the six weeks.

He was not available for comment but said in October: “We are aware that there are calls for a more sustained offer of free parking. This is just not feasible at the moment.”

In Banbury, parking is free in Market Place, Horsefair, Calthorpe Street, South Bar, North Bar, The Mill, Chamberlaine Court, Riverside and Windsor Street.

Parking is not free at Compton Road and Spiceball as these are enforced but not run by the council.

Free parking ends on January 7.