SHOPPERS may be allowed to park in the town centre and Old Town for free to try and boost trade in those areas.

The cabinet member for economic prosperity at Swindon Borough Council, Oliver Donachie told other that officers and members at Euclid Street were looking at the issue.

He was responding to a comment by the chairman of the scrutiny committee Bob Wright, representing the central ward who said: “Traders in Old Town and the town centre are losing out to the outlet village and out of town.”

Coun Donachie said: “We have met up with representatives of businesses in Old Town and the town centre.

“The result might be that we make parking there free on Saturdays and Sundays and on specific occasions, that’s what we are considering.”

Coun Donachie admitted to having previously made an error. He said: “I got it wrong. I believed 30 minutes would act as a catalyst.

“We’re trying hard to make it work without putting the council into financial disadvantage and I would like to be able to help business in the own by giving them this.”

After the meeting Coun Wright said he hoped it would happen. “I've had a lot of meetings with businesses and people in the central area, and that’s the one thing they say would provide an immediate result.”

He added that he’d been pressing the council to try to help traders in the centre of town for some time.

He said: “I saw that Cirencester had made parking in their town centre free after 3pm and I thought that would work here and also to make it free on Thursday evenings to extend the late night shopping.

“I think it’s within the council’s power to help and that’s probably the first thing it should do.”

Council officials ave stressed that discussions with business representatives are at an early stage and no decision has been made on whether free parking would be a temporary arrangement or a more permanent arrangement, should it be brought in.

At the scrutiny committee meeting, Coun Wright also asked the leader of the Conservative-run council, Coun David Renard why there had been no money allocated for setting up park and ride schemes in next year’s council budget proposals.

He said there needed to be park and rides to the centre of town from Junctions 15 and 16 on the M4 and also from northern Swindon, where an earlier scheme was shut down.

Coun Renard said the council needed Highways England to complete works at Junction 15, and it was looking for land at Junction 16.

He said the scheme from north Swindon had been under-used, with users mainly being from Swindon itself rather than commuters to the town and that it been costing the council £300,000 a year to run.