A FREE parking scheme designed to revive a flagging town centre was launched today (Monday February 18).

Middlesbrough Council hope their initiative, which will offer visitors to the town two hours of free parking, will help to boost the local economy.

The town’s mayor Ray Mallon said: “The town centre is Middlesbrough’s engine room, and that’s why it’s vital that we do everything we can to attract visitors.

“In Middlesbrough we have an exceptional shopping offer, but many potential shoppers and visitors have turned their backs on the town and gone elsewhere because the price of parking has become too high.

“Supporting the economy of the town is one of our key priorities, and that means removing existing barriers so that we can attract the greatest possible number of people, both to the town centre and the surrounding area.”

It is estimated that the scheme could cost the council more than £300,000 in lost revenue in its first six months.

Mr Mallon earlier acknowledged the “experiment” – which will initially run for six to nine months – was a risky one but added: “According to the public, the biggest barrier stopping them from attending the town centre is car parking charges. The only risk the council can take now is not taking a risk at all.”

The initiative offers two hours of free parking in all council owned car parks and in the town’s Jewel Streets (Amber, Ruby, Emerald, Pearl, Garnet streets and Diamond Road). It will also offer a £20 monthly permit for the Zetland and Station Street car parks and suspension of charges in northern Middlehaven, around Middlesbrough College.