A free parking scheme which could be rolled out across Aberdeen has seen more than 11 million visitors attracted to Newcastle city centre.
The ‘Alive After Five’ initiative was launched in Newcastle six years ago in response to the competition the retail sector was facing.
As reported in yesterday’s Evening Express, Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce and Aberdeen Inspired have been in talks to bring a similar scheme to Aberdeen.
Since the initiative launched, 11.6m visitors have visited the city centre, generating an estimated £708m.
The influx of additional visitors also resulted in the opening of 68 new restaurants and has created more jobs.
Business improvement district company NE1 worked alongside Newcastle City Council to tailor a scheme that worked in favour of consumers.
After discussion, organisers saw an opportunity to bridge the gap between daytime and night time economy.
Stephen Patterson, director of communications at NE1, said: “We tried to find a way to stitch different sectors together – something that benefited all sectors.
“And a critical factor to that was parking.”
Newcastle studied the retail sector and consumer behaviour to better understand why people preferred online shopping and out of town shopping centres.
Mr Patterson said: “The retail sector doesn’t act in isolation – people who come in also want to go for a bite to eat, watch a movie, or see a concert.
“People do a combination of activities, not just retail activities.”
Newcastle has not only reaped economic benefits from Alive After Five, but also cultural.
Mr Patterson said: “It changed the atmosphere in the early evening period. Now, when you walk through Newcastle at 8pm, people are out on the streets in a vibrant city centre.
“I think that’s hugely important for the survival of a city.”
Mr Patterson said he could see “no reason” why the scheme could not be replicated in Aberdeen.
He added: “Any scheme Aberdeen implements that puts customer experience at the head will benefit Aberdeen as a city.
“I think that’s really cutting to the core of ‘Alive After Five’; it was the initiative that was built around the city.”
Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said: “We would be in full support of an initiative that would introduce free parking at certain times as this would undoubtedly help to encourage people into the city centre.”
Source: Evening Express