MOTORISTS visiting Chorley are set to benefit from free parking across the town centre as part of plans to attract more shoppers.

Just weeks after Chorley Council announced it was pressing ahead with plans to bring a cinema, big name retailers and restaurants to the town, the authority has confirmed it is looking at offering up to three hours free parking on certain car parks.

The proposals for free parking will complement the £17 million investment in the Market Walk extension and public realm improvements and are in response to feedback as part of previous consultations.

Councillor Alistair Bradley, Leader of Chorley Council, said: "We know that parking is really important for the town centre and it has rightly been highlighted as part of our development proposals.

"We've continuously been looking at where we can provide more spaces and by 2018 we should be in a position where we have more parking spaces than we did in comparison to a few years ago.

"There will inevitably be disruption while the work takes place so that's why we're listening to businesses and shoppers and looking to offer one hour free parking on the short stay car parks [excludes Flat Iron] and three hours free parking on the long stay ones."

The first phases of car parking work would see the Hollinshead Street car park becoming public parking all week, from 5 December.

A longer term aim is to expand the High Street car park, which if combined with the new Hollinshead Street car park, would see around 200 new spaces created in very close proximity to the 187 lost on the Flat Iron due to the shopping centre extension.

"We know a big factor in people's shopping habits is parking tariffs as we do see a spike in visitors on a Saturday afternoon when it is free after 1pm," said Councillor Bradley.

"The whole aim of the improvements is to attract more shoppers to benefit all traders in the town centre and so it makes sense to look at reducing charges and eliminating them altogether where we can.

"The proposals would mean we'd in effect have some free parking available all weekend from 10am on Saturdays, which creates some of the cheapest town centre parking in the country.

“We will continue to keep all options under review, in order to offer residents and shoppers the most parking spaces we can over the coming months.”

It is anticipated that the new parking tariffs would be introduced from April 2017 to coincide with work starting on the Flat Iron car park although the Hollinshead Street staff car park will be available before Christmas for when the real ice rink takes up some Flat Iron spaces, with one hour free parking.