Free parking bid to boost Yarmouth market place

Proposals to introduce free parking in Great Yarmouth aim to mimic the car-friendly ease of supermarket shopping and boost the town's historic market.

Modern shopping habits which favour the hassle-free big names have seen the number of stalls halve from 95 over the last 10 years with markets all over the country bought to their knees by a new generation of consumers.

But market manager Duncan Mallett said the resort's market was holding up better than most – but those that were performing well benefited from free parking which would hopefully boost Yarmouth's stalls too.

Charles Reynolds, deputy leader at Yarmouth Borough Council, is behind the move to bring in two hours' free parking on the unoccupied end of Market Place and Brewery Plain on Wednesdays and Saturdays from November to Easter.

Mr Reynolds, who holds the portfolio for tourism, said a vibrant town centre and market were essential for holiday-makers and day-trippers looking for something different to spend their under-pressure pounds on. That there was a 'noticeable and steady decline' was worrying, he said, but on the upside the damage was not 'terminal' and there were hopes for a recovery if the right moves were made.

The council, he said, was looking at a range of options to lift the market, including a rent freeze, improved lighting and stall design.

But parking, he stressed, was something that could be ushered in quickly at little expense to encourage 'pop-in' shoppers who could drive up and park, have a quick look round and grab a few bits – as they would at the supermarket.

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Overall, the traders were not looking for a drastic overhaul of the kind that had transformed Norwich Market, just a few improvements to make the market more welcoming.

He hoped to bring in the free parking by the middle of March for a trial period running until May, depending on progress of a required legal order and reprogramming of machines.

Everyone, he added, had to play their part, with lapsed locals making the effort to return to the cluster of stalls and traders carrying on until at least 3pm, even on quiet days.

Yarmouth Market branch secretary Michael Anderson said stall holders welcomed the free parking as the most worthwhile intervention for a decade. 'We have been asking for it for years and they have finally listened,' he said.

About 50 cars at a time will enjoy two hours' free parking under the new arrangements on the Market Place with more on Brewery Plain.