BOROUGH council chiefs are expected to extend free parking until early July to help businesses and their customers through the initial reopening of the High Street, due to take place from June 1.

Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) suspended the charges in all its car parks on March 25 following the Prime Minister’s lockdown announcement.

And with the government indicating that it plans to continue relaxing the restrictions the authority is recommending that parking charges aren’t immediately reinstated.

Instead, cabinet members will meet on May 29 to consider proposals that parking remains free all day up to and including Sunday, June 7 – enabling business owners access to restock their shops and to give residents and town centre workers time to prepare for the parking changes.

From Monday, June 8, all TVBC car parks will be free for up to two hours, with normal charges applying for those staying for longer periods.

If restrictions continue to be relaxed, then the authority plans to reintroduce standard parking charges from Wednesday, July 8.

This will be at the new rate that came into force from April 1, which enables customers to park for two hours for £1. People will also be able to continue to park for free for up to two hours at Shepherds Spring Lane.

Transport portfolio holder, Councillor Nick Adams-King said: “The suspension of parking charges during the lockdown period has come at a significant cost to the authority but it was absolutely the right decision as it has enabled those collecting essential supplies for themselves and others to do so speedily and safely, and ensured adequate parking for those living in and around the town centres who were confined to their homes.

“As the government starts to lift the restrictions and reopen the High Street, we wanted to give shop owners and residents an additional period of time where parking is free, which is why we are planning for a gradual return to normal charges over the next couple of months. We will, of course, keep this under review should the government start to ramp up lockdown measures again.”

Parking will remain free after 4pm Monday to Friday and all day Sunday and bank holidays.