CAR parks in large parts of Oxfordshire will remain free to help local businesses hit hard by the Covid-19 disaster.

In a scrutiny committee meeting last week, it was confirmed that Vale of White Horse District Council will keep its popular two-hour free parking allowance, despite the possibility of a budget shortfall.

One of the range of options on the table was to reduce free parking in the Vale – including Abingdon and Wantage – from two hours to one hour, and introduce a charge of £1.50 for up to two hours and £2 for up to three hours.

If implemented, this would boost the council's income by at least £237,000.

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However, it was decided that the measure will only hurt businesses in Vale, who have already struggled this year under the mounting financial pressures of Covid-19 and the rise of online shopping.

Vale district councillor for Wantage Charlton ward Andrew Crawford commented on the decision: "One of the options was to reduce free parking in Vale car parks from two hours to one hour to bring it in line with policy within south.

"The Cabinet chose not to do that, mostly in light of the incredible amount of uncertainty around Covid-19.

"We are aware that our retail units in particular in the town centres have been under stress from March onwards and we did not think it was appropriate."

Another major change on parking regulations could also be announced tomorrow at the Vale's cabinet meeting, when the most senior councillors will decide whether to move forward with proposals for Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE).

This means that the responsibility for enforcement will transfer from the police to a new team managed by Oxfordshire County Council.

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Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire District Councils enforce parking in their own off-street car parks.

However, enforcement for on-street parking in both districts is carried out by the police, which can put 'unnecessary pressure' on the force and leave parking problems unresolved as officers focus on more serious crimes.

The two councils have been working alongside the county council and Cherwell District Council to investigate how to implement CPE within the three districts.