FREE evening and overnight parking should be giving Weymouth’s night time economy a boost – but businesses say they have seen little benefit.

The Federation of Small Businesses says the axing of overnight parking fees in council-run car parks should have increased the number of visitors to the town’s restaurants and pubs.

But Weymouth and Portland Borough Council has no record of how many people are taking advantage of the free parking and restaurateurs say they haven’t noticed a big change.

Free parking from 6pm to 9.30am, introduced in November last year, brings the resort in line with Dorchester, where free overnight parking has been available in West Dorset District Council car parks for a number of years.

David Trickett, FSB Rural Dorset Branch chairman, said: “Parking throughout the area still needs to be reviewed fully to try to help support our local micro and small businesses, but we are delighted that both residents and visitors to Weymouth are able to enjoy free overnight parking and help boost the night time economy.”

Mark Blunden, president of the Weymouth and Portland Chamber of Commerce, said some traders are reporting that the scrapping of overnight charges has helped.

He said: “It will, of course, be pubs and restaurants that benefit most and though it’s not that long since the parking was made free some are reporting that it has helped.

“I think though that it will be Spring and summer before we see the full benefit of it though.”

Sophie Kermani-Jibet, of The Dining Room restaurant in Weymouth, said free overnight parking had not made ‘a massive difference’ to trade.

“Even when there were charges people could always find other places to park of an evening.

“Once the free spaces are taken away by the harbour there could be more people using it.

“I think Weymouth can compete with Dorchester with it because what Weymouth has to offer in terms of restaurants is a lot of independent restaurants.

“Free overnight parking is a great step to have but to realistically make use of Weymouth we look forward to seeing cheaper car parking prices,” she said.

Gianni Giannino, of Enzo restaurant on The Esplanade, said he wasn’t sure if people dining at the restaurant were using the free parking, but trade is going well during the winter season.

  • COUNCILLOR Christine James, council spokesman for transport, said cheaper parking fees will be introduced in the borough from April 1.

She said it is hard to tell how popular free overnight parking is.

She added: “It seems to be going okay. There are a lot of people who welcome the free overnight parking.

“There’s no record of how many people are using it.”