FREE parking has been introduced at two main car parks in Malmesbury after the town council agreed to pay out to cover the charges introduced by the county authority.

In November, Wiltshire Council controversially introduced bank holiday parking charges at its car parks, including Cross Hayes and Station Road in Malmesbury.

However, to encourage people to visit Malmesbury on bank holidays, the town council has agreed to pay a subsidy to cover the charges.

This came into effect on the May Day bank holiday this week, May 6.

Chairman of the planning and environment committee at Malmesbury Town Council, Cllr John Gundry, said: “We are delighted to be able to support our community in dealing with the surprise introduction of parking charges by Wiltshire Council.

“We are happy to subsidise free parking on bank holidays to benefit residents, businesses and visitors.”

Proposals to introduce bank holiday charges were first put forward by Wiltshire Council in May last year.

This prompted Malmesbury’s mayor, Cllr Fran Vandelli, to send a letter strongly objecting to the plans while town and county councillor Gavin Grant labelled the potential changes as ‘foolish’.

Despite furious opposition in the community, Wiltshire Council introduced the parking charges on bank holidays last November.

Town councillors slammed the decision, fearing it could have a detrimental impact on trade, with one labelling the move “disgraceful”.

And, despite a bid by Liberal Democrat Cllr Grant in February to reverse the charges, at a budget meeting, the county council voted to keep the fees in place.

Cllr Grant, a Wiltshire and town councillor for Malmesbury, said: “As a town councillor I back our decision to subsidise bank holiday parking in Malmesbury. As the Wiltshire Councillor for Malmesbury, I am very frustrated that Conservative Wiltshire councillors did not support my proposal to withdraw these car parking charges on bank holidays.”

A member of staff at The Birdcage restaurant in Malmesbury said the free parking “is a good thing” as it could encourage more people to visit the town centre.