CITY-centre car parking in the Capital is to be free from 5pm each day in the countdown to Christmas and New Year.
Councillors were today set to approve a repeat of the Alive After Five initiative which ran during this year’s Edinburgh Festival to draw people into the city centre in the evening.
But the plan has come under fire from the Greens, who said the £96,000 lost in parking revenue from the two campaigns could be better spent.
The initiative – due to run from December 3 until January 5 – encourages shops to extend their opening hours until 7pm by making pay-and-display parking free.
A survey to evaluate the summer campaign found that of 1000 people questioned, 88 per cent had used the free parking and 44 per cent said the free parking had influenced their decision to stay late in the city.
But Green councillor Gavin Corbett said that meant at least half of those using the free parking would have stayed in the city centre anyway.
He said: “The big risk is that we are simply encouraging more cars into the centre when it is already congested enough.
“I am 100 per cent behind the aim of promoting the city centre as a great place to spend the early evening, but I seriously question whether offering free parking at the cost of almost £100,000 is the best way to achieve that.
“Across Europe, the most successful city centres are those which are changing the balance between people and cars and offering a higher quality environment for businesses. I cannot see why Edinburgh should be different.” He suggested alternatives could include more frequent bus services in the evening, better bus information and making the city centre more attractive for pedestrians.
Fifty-three roads in the city centre, West End and East End are to be included in the free parking scheme, including Charlotte Square, Frederick and George streets, Ainslie Place, Drumsheugh Gardens, Forth Street, Picardy Place, and Elm Row.
Council transport convener Lesley Hinds said: “The Christmas shopping period is the busiest time of the year for retailers and we want to encourage facilities to remain open for longer to make the most of this.
“Alive after Five was implemented after a request from Marketing Edinburgh and city centre retailers and was a great success during the summer. We expect it to be just as popular with shoppers and traders during December and into early January.”
Denzil Skinner, chairman of Essential Edinburgh, which represents around 600 firms in the city centre, said: “We strongly support the Alive After Five initiative. The project helps to extend trading opportunities and creates a much better ambience in the city centre.”