THE introduction of free parking at a car park in Malmesbury has helped the town centre flourish.

The Station Road Car Park has seen nearly a tripling of short term users to the town, and high street traders are seeing the benefits.

A staggering 4128 one and two hour tickets were issued in August, September and October this year compared with 1555 purchased in the same period in 2014, a 165 per cent increase.

Malmesbury Town Council and the Malmesbury Town Team announced the two hour free parking initiative at the town's Station Road Car Park in July.

This was a welcome move with both parties jointly subsidising Wiltshire Council's parking revenues for a 12-month trial.

Alison Townsend, owner of Sassy & Boo on the High Street, thinks the two hour free parking has had a positive effect for local traders.

“I’ve been really pleased with it as people are happy to have the chance to browse the High Street,” she said.

“It’s the local businesses that benefit, people pop into town, but they stay in if it’s free and shop as a result.”

Jack Lee, manager at the Kings Arms, said: “I noticed there hasn’t been a dip in passing trade in recent months.

“You’d normally expect it around this time of year so it might be a knock on effect from the free parking.”

Malmesbury Mayor, Cllr John Gundry, said: “The early success of this joint town council and town team initiative is very positive news for both Malmesbury residents and visitors.

“We are grateful for Wiltshire Council's support in establishing this scheme.”

Gordon MacPherson, spokesperson for Malmesbury Town Team, said: “The objectives were to make car parking options more attractive and increase the number of visitors using the Station Road car park.

“Results after the first three months of the trial are very encouraging.

“We will continue to promote free parking through promotional material and on Malmesbury’s new website”

Wiltshire Cllr Simon Killane said: “Convenient and affordable parking spaces are hugely important to the success of our high street and this initiative demonstrates a positive example of giving market towns a much bigger say in how they determine their own parking charge rates.”

Another event that has helped boost trade in the town is the Late Night Christmas Shopping that took place last Friday (4).

The evening proved as popular as ever this year, bringing visitors, residents and retailers together for a night of entertainment and shopping.

Alison Townsend, of Sassy & Boo, said: “We were absolutely heaving for Late Night Christmas Shopping.

“It took us an hour to clear the shop afterwards.”

Gordon MacPherson was also pleased with the night’s success. He said: “The town certainly comes out in their numbers and support it each year.

“I think the customer feedback also seems to be very good.”