Council's Christmas parking offer 'unfair' on Windsor, says councillor

Free Christmas parking days and times announced by council

The Royal Borough’s free Christmas parking offer is unfair on Windsor, an independent councillor has claimed. 

Last week, the council announced its plans to provide free parking in council-owned car parks across Maidenhead and Windsor in the run-up to the festive season.

In Maidenhead, motorists will be able to park free each weekend from Saturday, November 27, up until Saturday, December 25.

The offer will also be valid on Bank Holiday’s including Monday, December 27, Tuesday December 28 and New Year’s Day.

Over in Eton and Windsor, there will be be free parking from 4pm on November 18 and 20 respectively in all council car parks for the town’s Christmas light switch-ons. 

The parking offer will also be valid from 4pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout December, on the 2, 7, 9, 14, 16, 21 and 23.

However councillors and business owners in Windsor have hit out at the differing offers, claiming that Windsor benefits from much less free parking, with Maidenhead benefiting from the busier Saturday shopping day.

Independent councillor Jon Davey (WWRA, Clewer and Dedworth West) added that older people and families with young children will be less enticed to visit the shops after 4pm as it starts getting dark.

He said: “We have all had a tough year, the businesses have had an awful time of it. We should be helping them – there should be parity between the two towns.”

Cllr Davey added that Windsor residents should not be made to pay the same prices as tourists and called on the council to ensure local people benefit themselves to support their high street.

“Find a way to distinguish residents from tourists,” he said. “We need to create a vehicle that facilitates local people having parity with Maidenhead.”

Cllr Davey said the loss of the Advantage Card parking discount is being felt by residents and was unsure when a similar scheme would return, with the council saying last month it would bring back a discount initiative when finances allow.

Fellow independent councillor Lynne Jones (OWRA, Old Windsor) has also criticised the Christmas parking offer and called on the Royal Borough to introduce discount residents parking schemes within next year’s budget. 

Brian McCormack, owner of Snappy Snaps in Peascod Street, was the main driver behind a petition opposing the council’s Christmas parking proposals in Windsor last year.

He said that the borough has ‘not learnt’ from the row in 2020 and agrees that this year’s offer is unfair again.

“I am stunned at what they have done,” he said. “It is the Royal Borough of Windsor or Maidenhead.

“They are two sister towns and there should be parity, I do not understand this need to differentiate.

“Why should [Windsor] residents have to pay the same [as tourists]? I do not see that as fair.”

Brian raised concerns about the footfall levels in Windsor, saying that the level of overseas tourists has dropped significantly because of the pandemic.

He added that he was not involved in any pre-consultation with the council about its Christmas parking plans, and has written an email to senior councillors asking for an explanation behind the decision.

Cllr David Cannon (Con, Datchet, Horton and Wraysbury), the council's cabinet member for parking, said: “As with the Christmas lights switch-on events, our free parking incentives over the festive period are designed to support shoppers, encourage footfall and, in turn, provide a much-needed boost to town centre businesses in this peak trading period.

“Our town managers liaise informally with businesses throughout the year, holding retailer meetings where traders can raise any issues or share ideas, and we’ve responded to a clear desire from the business community to have incentives in place to attract trade over the Christmas period.

“The Christmas parking offer includes the targeted free evening parking in Windsor and Eton on Tuesdays and Thursdays during December, in order to support a critical mass of shoppers on those late-night shopping evenings held on those days.

"For Maidenhead, parking is already free on Sundays year-round, so adding free Saturdays is a practical option to offer free parking for the whole weekend for that festive period."

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