Free town centre parking trial results "encouraging", says Bedford council

Apparently, there’s been increased footfall and positive feedback from businesses and visitors
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Following a six-month trial period, Bedford Borough Council says it’s encouraged by the results of a four-hour free parking trial in the town centre.

Aimed at encouraging more visitors to shops, markets, events and cultural attractions, it started in August 2023 and tested the concept at Allhallows Car Park. Additionally, overnight free parking was extended at both Allhallows and Lurke Street car parks until 8.30am.

Councillor Andrea Spice, portfolio holder for town centres and planning at Bedford Borough Council, said: "The results of the trial are encouraging and affirm our commitment to enhancing the vibrancy of Bedford's town centre. The increased footfall and positive feedback from businesses and visitors underscore the importance of initiatives that support our local economy."

Allhallows car parkAllhallows car park
Allhallows car park

There was a significant increase in car park use by over 40,000 vehicles during the trial period, from August 2023 to January 2024, compared to the same period in 2022 and 2023 – and the increase didn’t have a negative impact on public transport and air quality either.

Councillor Jim Weir, portfolio holder for environment, highways, and transport at Bedford Borough Council, said: "The trial has demonstrated the potential of free parking initiatives to drive economic activity while maintaining a sustainable transport ecosystem. It's crucial that we continue to monitor and evaluate the impact to ensure the long-term success of this strategy.

“Alongside other initiatives, such as £2 bus fares and secure cycle shelter, we are determined to make it as easy as possible for all residents to access Bedford town centre.”

Also in February this year, an additional 15,080 cars used the multi-storey car parks compared to February 2023.

And based on the trial’s success, the council has made several recommendations, including continuing four hours of free parking at Allhallows Car Park from April 2024 – and potentially extending free parking to Lurke Street Car Park from October.