A DECISION to introduce five hours’ free parking for shoppers in Newport City Centre over the Christmas period was generally welcomed by traders yesterday.

Newport City Council announced it will be providing shoppers with five hours’ free parking in its Park Square and Cambrian multi-storey car parks in the run-up to Christmas and during January.

It will also allow shoppers to park in its pay and display car parks, including Emlyn Street, Faulkner Road, Hill Street and Stow Hill, at a cost of ten pence for the first five hours.

The council said it has listened to retailers and shoppers and wants to encourage more people to visit the city and shop there over the festive season and during the sales period.

Newport Chamber of Trade president Alan Edwards described it as “wonderful” news.

He said: “It’s extremely generous of the council when most councils are increasing the costs.

“I hope it encourages people who go to Cwmbran to come back to Newport.”

He said he hopes it will make people stay longer in the city.

He added: “People come in for free for two hours and then rush off.

“Now they can come in for longer and explore the city where there are a large number of independent traders.”

Nigel Merrett, owner of Arnold’s Lighting on Skinner Street, said: “Everything helps.

Two hours’ free parking worked very well, but that was a rush for some people.

“Five hours is brilliant, half a day almost, so it should keep them here for longer.”

Matt Jarrett, co-owner of Diverse Records, said: “It will definitely help, particularly if people live just outside the the city centre and are deciding whether to come into the city.

“Two hours might not be enough time for people but five means people can go into town and enjoy a meal.”

But Phae Cole, who owns gift shop Bethan in Newport Arcade, was not so sure.

She said: “Most people have given up on coming into the city, they have been going to Cwmbran and Spytty for so long – so it could be too little too late.”

She also pointed to ongoing road works in the city centre turning people off, adding: “It’s got to help, but whether it’s enough?

“They need to do more and now – there’s no need for five hours free parking if there’s nothing to come into the city for.”

Cllr Ken Critchley, cabinet member for infrastructure, said: “We want people to use their local shops and support our traders. We have listened to retailers and customers who want to park and shop in the city centre for more than two hours.”

The new Christmas parking changes are due to be advertised in the local press next week and will come into force three weeks later from around December 10.