// It also warned that parking machines can make social distancing difficult as shoppers queue up to buy tickets
Councils should offer free parking from the middle of December to encourage Christmas shoppers back to the high street.
Motoring organisation the AA has made the call “to help revive the festive fortunes of beleaguered shops and street traders”.
It has warned that parking machines can make social distancing difficult as shoppers queue up to buy tickets.
AA added that although many areas offer pay-by-phone services, a 2017 survey found 70 per cent of motorists would rather drive past than use them.
Motorists are put off by extra charges, while older generations find them difficult to use.
“Various parts of the country have #ShopLocal campaigns as they are petrified that niche local stores will be put out of business by on-line retail and lockdowns,” AA president Edmund King said.
“Free parking periods at Christmas have been used in the past by councils and shopping centres to tempt customers into the high streets and shopping centres.
“The AA believes that, now more than ever, the hours and free parking locations should be extended.
“With fewer shoppers and some avoiding public transport, opening up free parking would also allow better social-distancing instead of ticket machines becoming the ‘Achilles heel’ of attempts by stores, councils, and shopping centre managers to space out and protect visitors.
“This has been made worse by ticket machines becoming more complicated by requiring vehicle registration numbers as well as credit card details.
“Also, queuing is often a problem as ticket machines are often located where shoppers are squeezed ...
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