SOME parking charges could be scrapped at “key times” as part of measures to entice people back into Keighley town centre.

And nighttime economy businesses are being provided with budgets to boost evening visitor numbers.

The moves are designed to help town-centre traders battling to recover from the devastating impact of Covid-19 lockdown.

Paul Howard, manager of Keighley Business Improvement District (BID), said: “The pandemic and subsequent lockdown has hit traditional retail hard.

“Most town-centre activity was brought to a grinding halt in the middle of March – with footfall down to between 25 and 35 per cent of where we would expect it to be.

“The BID team has continued to work hard throughout lockdown on behalf of businesses – providing advice, support and guidance and liaising with Bradford Council and other partners – whilst also preparing for when restrictions were eased.

“Since non-essential retail started to reopen in June, we have seen a slow climb back to just over 65 per cent footfall compared to the same period last year. But we are still some way off returning to what we would perceive to be normal and have put in place various plans to support the businesses reopening.”

He said the free parking proposal was still being negotiated, but he hoped for an announcement soon.

Other schemes include the latest, recently-launched Keighley Independents Campaign.

Shoppers who get special cards stamped at participating businesses are then entered into a prize draw. The total prize fund has been increased to £8,000.

Steve Seymour, manager of Keighley’s Airedale Shopping Centre, says it is now more important than ever that people support local businesses.

He said: “I have been in shopping centre management for 25 years and have witnessed a variety of challenges for businesses but I have never seen anything like Covid-19, and never hope to again.

“Keighley has responded and met every challenge it has been set, with businesses pulling together to ensure the town is a safe place to shop and visit, complying with safety measures such as one-way shopping, social distancing and now-mandatory face coverings.

“For around 12 weeks in the centre throughout the national lockdown we traded with 11 retailers and businesses trying to provide essential services and minimising the impact for our customers, yet staying safe for centre tenants and our team – which we successfully did – and this was down to the majority of customers working with us. I can only thank them for this.”

Mr Seymour says that although the virus has reshaped the way everyone lives and works and has impacted hard on businesses, he is confident they can recover – with the public’s support.

He added: “I do believe that businesses will be stronger and more resilient to future challenges. And this will be down to everyone playing their part to ensure the ‘new normal’ can be achieved sooner rather than later.

“We need more than ever to shop local and do this responsibly. Footfall is increasing slowly and if this pattern continues we could be back to 2019 levels by the end of October, ahead of the start of the Christmas shopping period.”