Drivers will be able to park for free in five car parks in Brighton and Hove on Small Business Saturday and the three Sundays before Christmas.
The car parks are London Road, Regency Square, Trafalgar Street and High Street in Brighton and Norton Road in Hove.
The dates when parking will be free are Saturday 6 December – Small Business Saturday – and Sunday 7 December, Sunday 14 December and Sunday 21 December.
The free parking package was passed after Conservative and Labour councillors voted together to defeat a Green proposal to leave the usual charges unchanged.
The decision was made at a meeting of the Brighton and Hove City Council Environment, Transport and Sustainability Urgency Sub-Committee at Hove Town Hall this afternoon (Wednesday 12 November).
It resulted from a motion passed at the full council meeting held on Thursday 23 October.
This afternoon the committee chairman Councillor Pete West said: “Last year’s experiment achieved nothing but give money away. It had very bizarre effects.”
Fewer people parked in London Road on the first day of the scheme, the Green councillor said, adding: “Norton Road was empty every day of that scheme proving that we can’t even give parking away at that car park.
“In Trafalgar Street the queues just started earlier.”
There were still huge queues for the car parks behind Churchill Square, he said, where the charges were unchanged.
Councillor West said that charges encouraged a turnover of cars which meant more people coming in to do their shopping.
He criticised the move to allow free parking, saying: “It’s poor for business. It’s certainly poor for council profits.”
Instead, he said the estimated £64,000 cost should be spent on road safety improvements around Brighton and Hove.
And he pointed out that 40 per cent of people in Brighton and Hove didn’t have a car.
Councillor Gill Mitchell said: “If you wanted to invest an additional £64,000 in road safety work, you could do this tomorrow.
“It’s just a cynical political ploy.”
The Labour councillor accused the Greens of amending the motion so that they could put on their leaflets that the other parties voted against road safety measures.
And she added: “It looks as though you’re more interested in playing politicla games than in road safety.”
The free parking scheme was the same as last year, she said, when “we were warned there was going to be ‘carmaggedon’ and huge losses”.
But she said: “There was no additional congestion other than that being caused by the multitude of roadworks across the city.”
And she dismissed a warning that the scheme would cause reputational damage due to congestion, adding: “We didn’t see that last year.
“This city has already got the reputation of being anti-car and anti-motorist.”
Instead, she said, the council should be saying: “Here you go, have something back. We want to help businesses as so many other councils do.
“Council after council after council are advertising what they are doing – their Christmas experience supported by free parking.”
Conservative group leader Councillor Geoffrey Theobald said: “You try every devious tactic to get your party’s proposals through.”
He accused the Greens of trying to go against the will of the council as expressed in the motion passed last month.
He called it “outrageous” and said of the road safety spending proposal: “If you think this is important – and I do – you should do it anyway.
“You’re using exactly the same arguments that were trotted out last year and they’re pretty laughable.
“We were told last year it was going to cost several hundred thousand pounds.
“The income from The Lanes car park actually increased on the days of the scheme.”
And he pointed out that on and off-street car parking brought in £300,000 more than budgeted last year.
He said: “We were told it would be traffic chaos and gridlock and buses wouldn’t be able to run. None of that happened.”
He said that the real risk of reputational damage was not due to congestion and poor visitor experience but because Brighton and Hove had such a poor reputation as a rip-off for the motorist.
He added: “This will go some way to show the council is not anti the motorist and anti-business.
“People in my ward tell me they’re going to Crawley, they’re going to Haywards Heath, to Eastbourne. They should be coming to Brighton.”
Councillor Mitchell and Councillor Theobald voted together to push through the free parking proposal with Councillor West voting against.
In addition only emergency road works in the town centre shopping areas will be permitted to take place from Monday 8 December to Friday 2 January inclusive.
And they will be restricted on the key routes into and out of Brighton and Hove.
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