SHOPPERS will get a festive treat again this year when free parking returns to Bolton town centre.

Thousands of car parking spaces will be free after 3pm each weekday from next Thursday, coinciding with the switch-on of the town’s Christmas lights and late night shopping.

The offer applies to shoppers using the multi-storey car parks at the Octagon, Deane Road and Topp Way and will run until Friday, January 5.

The weekday parking initiative is in addition to the free weekend and Bank Holiday parking on offer already at these three popular NCP car parks.

Leader of Bolton Council, Cllr Cliff Morris, said: “Our free weekday parking after 3pm offer has always proved really popular with shoppers and town centre businesses.

“We are committed to making it as easy and affordable as possible for shoppers to visit and to boost town centre trade, particularly in the run-up to Christmas and New Year.

“We are also planning a special festive programme and the free parking extension will help with this.”

Parking will be free on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, as all these days fall either on a weekend or a Bank Holiday when there is already no charge for parking.

Bolton-born TV host Paddy McGuinness will be lighting up the town centre at the switch-on show next Thursday night, which is sponsored by Market Place Shopping Centre.

This year’s Winter Festival, organised by Bolton Council in association with the University of Bolton, starts on December 2 with a giant snow slide and covered ice skating rink on Victoria Square.

In addition, from December 9 to 20, there will be a festive Christmas Market in and around Victoria Square and an Alpine Ski Lodge bar.

Bolton Council first introduced a free parking scheme in November, 2012, before free weekend and Bank Holiday parking was then introduced in May, 2013.