Chester's 'Free After Three' car parking scheme faces axe

A popular scheme allowing drivers to park for free in Chester city centre after 15:00 could be scrapped as it causes "pressure" on rush-hour traffic.

Cheshire West and Chester Council has launched a consultation on whether to end its "Free After Three" scheme.

Businesses in the city have complained that reintroducing parking charges would hit their trade.

The council says "better alternatives" may be developed during a 12-week consultation period which is under way.

The proposals are part of a new parking strategy drawn up for the local authority by consultants, designed to ensure "better quality" and "sustainable" parking.

Labour councillor Karen Shore said: "No decisions have been taken yet, but we believe that some of the alternative proposals will actually be better in terms of the experience for shoppers and the footfall for businesses."

The strategy recommends replacing the "Free After Three" scheme with bus discounts and shorter periods of free parking to "encourage trade throughout the day".

Free parking would also be scrapped in nearby Ellesmere Port, where it is said to be having "only a limited effect" in boosting the economy.

Christian Bartley, from Back Alley Music in Chester, said reintroducing evening parking charges would "take away even more customers for us".

"I was gobsmacked," he added. "It's just going to make it even harder for us to keep our customers coming here."