I VISITED the town of Witney for the first time last week. Though it cannot match Cirencester’s two millennia, it is an old town dating from 969. A bypass was built two decades before our town received its own in the 1990s and no doubt there were similar worries about decline and fall as visitor numbers declined.

However, Witney has flourished and I was pleasantly surprised to find it full of individual places to eat, shop or simply browse. People were doing this on a weekday and in large numbers. I wondered how such a thing could be as we drove along the High Street. It seemed such a contrast to our beloved Cirencester.

And then the reason soon became clear. There was a sign which directed us to free parking in the centre of town. We assumed there would be a catch or that this ‘centre’ would be nothing of the sort. We were wrong.

Witney has a car park which allows users of the first three floors to park for three hours, the next two floors for five hours and the next two for the day. It was indeed all free of charge. They have managed to accommodate shoppers, day trippers and workers.

Witney and Cirencester have things in common but there is one major difference. Perhaps the idea of actually welcoming those who can make our town prosper is something Cirencester Town Council should consider?

If looking for proof that there is a solution to our struggling retailers and restaurateurs, the councillors responsible for our town’s destiny need only pop to Witney. It’s a short drive and they will not struggle to park.