It’s a common misconception that Cheltenham town centre is heaving during Cheltenham Festival.
In reality, the town’s main shopping areas are relatively quiet, with local people avoiding the area and the majority of visitors spending their day at the racecourse itself.
To try and encourage more footfall during Race Week, Cheltenham Borough Council is offering free parking in its Town Centre East car park every afternoon from Tuesday 14 to Friday 17 March 2023 inclusive, valid from 2pm to 5pm.
It's hoped that free afternoon parking will attract shoppers to the high street, supporting local retailers during what can otherwise be a quiet time for Cheltenham's shopping scene – with the council and Cheltenham BID gathering data over the four-day scheme, to assess how effective free parking initiatives are at boosting retail during Cheltenham Festival.
Cheltenham has traditionally offered a form of free parking scheme during Race Week, with Heath Gunter, chief executive of Cheltenham BID, saying: 'We're thrilled to have the council's support during what can sometimes be a slower period for retailers.
'The BID's message is that town centre businesses welcome local residents to visit during Race Week, and we hope the provision of free parking will incentivise them to explore the town centre and show their support for our local retailers.'
It's worth noting the free afternoon parking during Race Week does not apply to any other council-run car park, nor any privately-run car parks in the town centre or on-street parking.