FIVE days of free parking in the run-up to Christmas have been announced by New Forest District Council.

All town and village car parks will be free of charge on December 5, 12, 13, 19 and 20 in a bid to boost business for traders across the area.

Cllr Edward Heron, portfolio holder for planning and infrastructure said: "By offering five days of free parking we’re encouraging our residents to shop local where possible this Small Business Saturday, and in the run up to Christmas.

"Free Christmas parking days have proved popular over the past few years both with our residents, and local shops and business. This year, where government restrictions on shopping allow, it’s even more important that you support small businesses and please shop local, safely, where you can."

The council is also freezing charges for 2021 to help boost the local economy. Charges have not increased since 2018.

Parking charges at seafront car parks will be frozen at 2020 prices out of season, with small increases of £1 per tariff applied during the spring and summer visitor season from April 1 to September 30 2021.

Cllr Heron added: "We’re continuing to support local businesses throughout 2021 by once again freezing most parking charges for another year at 2018 rates."

Despite the freeze in income and an increase in running costs for the car parks, NFDC continues to invest in its car parks. This year has seen council investment in new electric charging points, expected to be in use before Christmas, improvement projects at Fordingbridge and Brockenhurst and enhanced maintenance across council managed car parks.

The spring and summer charges will remain competitive with other coastal car parks in the region and contribute towards the council’s increased running costs and ongoing improvement plans.