Towns in Torridge are set to trial a new parking scheme which will encourage people to stay in town centres for longer.

Torridge District Council (TDC) will implement a free second hour of parking in car parks in Bideford, Holsworthy and Torrington.

The free second hour will be automatically added to any one-hour tickets purchased during October and November, starting from 8am on Friday (October 9).

The council’s community and resources committee voted to implement the plans at a meeting on Monday night (October 5).

Councillor Bob Hicks, chairman of the community and resources committee and TDC’s lead member for the economy, said: “There is a simplicity to this scheme and the prospect of immediate implementation that has supported these proposals through to this decision.

“As councillors we very much hope that it will allow town centres to continue to recover and thrive in what are still very challenging trading conditions.

“We would now urge all of our residents and tourists alike to get behind the scheme and shop and spend locally wherever and whenever they can.”

It is hoped the proposals will assist the recovery of town centre shops and businesses from the coronavirus pandemic.

With queues often forming outside some premises under social distancing guidelines, it was felt customers were rushing to complete their trips before their parking expires.

It is hoped the new ‘buy one – get one free’ parking offer will allow people to dwell longer and have time for other activities.

The scheme will apply in Bideford’s Bridge Street, The Manor, The Quay, The Pill, Riverbank and Clarence Wharf car parks, as well as Sydney House and Barley Grove car parks in Torrington and Holsworthy Manor car park.

It follows a four-month battle to introduce an element of free parking in the town.

A call for two months of completely free parking was rejected by the community and resources committee in July, but was followed up with proposals for two hours of free parking.

While the proposals were approved by the committee, the decision went to the council’s overview and scrutiny committee, which came back with the current scheme approved by councillors by eight votes to four.