Councils across the country are attempting to drum up trade for businesses and create some festive cheer by running free parking schemes in the run up to Christmas.

Bedford Council has announced free late-night parking at three car parks in the town centre, while in Kendal, Westmorland, free Sunday parking will be available in all pay and display car parks from 1 December.

“Any relaxation of parking restrictions is welcome and will help retailers on the high street,” said Nisa Local retailer Kishor Patel, who owns five stores in Bedfordshire. “There are so many restrictions on parking that customers are put off coming to us.”

Communities secretary Eric Pickles recently vowed to wage war on “excessive parking charges” which he claims can “undermine local high streets and shopping parades”.

In Sheerness, Kent, the council has decided to extend the ‘free after three’ scheme that it launched last Christmas to ‘free after two’.

It will also introduce free all-day parking in all council-run car parks on every Sunday throughout December.

Bal Cheema of Avenue Food and Wine in Sheerness said the scheme would be of great benefit to stores such as hers. “Free parking will definitely incentivise people to come into the town centre and stay for longer rather than going to the supermarkets and out-of-town sites. It will also lift spirits and create a feeling of goodwill, which is exactly what is needed at this time of year.”

Thousands of free town centre parking spaces have been made available in Bolton town centre in the run-up to Christmas. Council leader Cliff Morris said: “We want to do everything we can to encourage more people to support our town centre businesses.”