CIVIC chiefs could extend free parking until early July in a bid to help businesses and customers when high streets reopen from June 1.

Cabinet members will meet on Friday, May 29 to consider proposals that parking remains free all day up to and including Sunday 7 June – enabling business owners access to restock their shops and to give residents, including town centre workers, time to prepare for the parking changes.

This comes after Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) scrapped the charges in all its car parks on March 25 following Prime Minister's, Boris Johnson, lockdown announcement.

Now civic chiefs have announced from Monday, June 8, all car parks across the borough will be free for up to two hours, with normal charges applying for those staying for longer periods.

If lockdown restrictions continue to be relaxed, the authority plans to reintroduce standard parking charges from Wednesday, July 8.

This will be at the new rate that was introduced from April 1, where customers could park for two hours for £1.

Drivers will also be able to continue to park for free for up to three hours at Romsey Rapids.

Transport portfolio holder, cllr Nick Adams-King said: “The suspension of parking charges during the lockdown period has come at a significant cost to the authority, but it was absolutely the right decision.

"It has enabled those collecting essential supplies for themselves and others to do so speedily and safely, and ensured adequate parking for those living in and around the town centres who were confined to their homes.

“As the government starts to lift the restrictions and reopen the high street, we wanted to give shop owners and residents an additional period of time where parking is free, which is why we are planning for a gradual return to normal charges over the next couple of months.

"We will, of course, keep this under review should the government start to ramp up lockdown measures again.”

Parking will also remain free after 4pm Monday to Friday as well as all day Sunday and bank holidays.