EFFORTS are being made to boost Carlisle city centre's economy in the wake of the lockdowns that were punishing for businesses.

Like many city centres, Carlisle has been hit hard by Covid-19 restrictions and small businesses will be eagerly awaiting Christmas shopping season to repair some of the remaining damage.

One initiative from Carlisle City Council encouraging people to shop locally is free parking in areas around the city centre during peak Christmas shopping periods.

Portfolio holder for Environment and Transport Nigel Christian said free free parking after 3pm will be brought in at peak Christmas shopping periods, encouraging residents to shop in the town centre.

Free parking will be in place at Bitts Park; Lowther Street; Caldew Riverside; Viaduct; The Sands; Swifts Bank and West Walls after 3pm on Thursdays in December.

The scheme runs every Thursday in council owned car parks until December 23.

Cllr Christian said: "I think it's going to help and that's the aim, to try and give people a bit of a boost and the city centre a boost as well."

He said there are signs that the city's businesses are rebuilding after the impact of Covid-19. "We've certainly seen car parking going up, that's a mixed blessing but it's good people are coming into the city centre."

It is estimated that offering free admission to its car parks on December 2, 9, 16 and 23 will cost the city council £10,000.

The portfolio holder for Culture, Heritage and Leisure, Cllr Stephen Higgs, said that much is planned for the city centre, positive news for the business and hospitality industries.

He said: "The tree is up and the city centre lights are on as of this weekend just gone, and there's a Discover Carlisle website with a huge list of the various events happening in the next month or so.

"Our primary aim is to drive footfall into the city centre. I know that after all we've been through over the last 18 months, all the businesses in Carlisle are aware of their responsibility in everybody's safety."

The success of events like the Hawker Festival have given cause for optimism on the road out of Covid-19.

Cllr Higgs said: "The City of Lights event in mid-October got lots of positive feedback which was nice because it was a big thing to set up."

The council hopes that the initiatives and events complement each other.

"Hopefully one builds on the next and people get more confident about coming out again."