SHOPPERS in Cork city will be able to avail of free parking in city centre car parks in the coming weeks as part of a pre-Christmas shopping incentive.
Cork City Council is set to bring back the popular parking incentive scheme, which has run in the lead up to the busy Christmas shopping period since 2011.
The scheme will return on October 9, running for six weeks in a 'concerted effort to generate business in the city in the lead up to Christmas.'
It will see free parking between 10am and 12pm in Paul St and North Main St car parks from Monday to Thursday, with free late night parking in Paul St (6.30pm to 12pm) and North Main St (6.30pm to 9.30pm) on Thursdays and Fridays.
On each Saturday from October 14, Cork City Council will also offer a free park and ride service from the Black Ash park and ride at the Kinsale Road roundabout.
"This is, in particular, to encourage and attract families to the city at weekends to enjoy the city centre vibrancy, quality of retailing, hospitality and entertainment offering", according to city officials.
The incentives will come to an end in mid-November, with city officials confirming that the scheme won't be extended further as it is designed to encourage business and footfall during what is typically a quiet time of year.
The move to bring the scheme back for a seventh year was broadly welcomed by city councillors, who called on the city to consider similar incentives throughout the year.
Despite being the city's cheapest car park, North Main St remains the quietest multi-storey in the city centre, prompting councillors to call for an extension of opening hours and better links with business to boost use.
A number of elected members also called for Cork City Council to work hard to increase the numbers using the park and ride.
Sinn Féin's Shane O'Shea said, "It is criminally under-used. It is an absolute goldmine for this city and we are not taking advantage of it. And there should be more park and rides in the west and north of the city too."
Independent councillor Kieran McCarthy said that the incentive is 'very welcome.'
"We just need to do a better job promoting the good things about parking in Cork," he said.
"The negative publicity is atrocious and it doesn't do anyone any good."
Fine Gael's John Buttimer and Fianna Fáil's Mary Shields both welcomed the early introduction of the incentivised parking, too, with both councillors noting the heavy volumes of traffic in the west of the city which, they said, could be improved by better use of park and ride systems.