THE controversial end to free parking in Bolton town centre is set to be debated by the council again this week.

Two hours of free parking in on-street bays was brought in around the start of the pandemic to help the struggling high street. The scheme had been in place at multi-storeys since 2012 and also included free weekend and bank holiday parking.

It came to an end on July 19 after being extended from its original planned end date last November in order to continue supporting businesses blighted by the pandemic and lockdowns.

This decision was met with uproar from opposition councillors who believed this decision had been made ‘without the full facts’.

It has now been ‘called in’ by Bolton’s Labour group, to be debated at a meeting of the full council on Wednesday.

Cllr Nick Peel, Labour group leader, said: “Our argument is very simple. We considered the report to end free parking in town centre to be purely financial, and how much money could be saved in the short term, without looking at the full facts and impact this could have.

“We don’t believe the decision was made with the full knowledge of the facts which we feel is a shoddy way of running things. A new report needs to be commissioned that looks at the long term impact of this as the timing of ending it is terrible.

“Many councillors also have concerns that we couldn’t call the decision in before the scheme came to an end over two months ago.”

Council leader Cllr Martyn Cox, said after the scrapping was announced: “This council always backs local businesses and these parking offers have played a key role in bringing more people into the town centre. While this offer is coming to an end, we have a number of initiatives in place as we work to create a vibrant town centre and help the economic recovery.”