Free after three…?


Thousands of motorists in Cheshire East are unnecessarily paying to park their vehicles in council-owned car parks.

There are six designated ‘free after three’ car parks owned by Cheshire East Council, where motorists could be parking without charge, daily after 3pm.

However, in the final quarter of last year (1st October to 31st December 2019) a total of 3,741 parking sessions were paid for after 3pm.

The motorists responsible for those transactions could have taken advantage of the council’s free after three scheme and parked without paying.

Locals have complained that promotion of the scheme is minimal, and that the machines do not appear to switch off outside of their charging hours.

There is a notice on the parking machines to indicate that parking is free of charge after 3pm, although a number of motorists have complained that this isn’t especially clear.

There is no additional signage around the car parks to make users aware of the scheme.

Elsewhere, Cheshire West and Chester Council opted to end its free after three parking scheme entirely, a move which caused controversy amongst locals.

A Cheshire East Council spokesperson told So Cheshire: “We can confirm there are six designated car parks where parking after 3pm is free of charge.

“However, it should be recognised that users may have paid in advance for parking, irrespective of whether the time they are paying for is free or not.

“They may be visitors to the borough staying locally or business people or residents leaving their car while they travel out of the borough for more than one day.”

Congleton motorists were arguably the most astute in the borough, with just 18 failing to take advantage of the free parking after 3pm.

Motorists in Nantwich, meanwhile, appear to be missing out the most frequently – with 1,324 unnecessary transactions recorded after 3pm at the town’s Snow Hill car park.


Payments recorded after 3pm at all of the ‘free after three’ car parks during the last three months of 2019 are as follows:

● Back Street, Congleton: 18 transactions

● Thomas Street, Crewe: 89 transactions

● Princess Street, Knutsford: 724 transactions

● Snow Hill, Nantwich: 1,324 transactions

● South Street, Alderley Edge:  849

● Whalley Hayes, Macclesfield: 737


Transactions made via parking machines before 3pm totalled 78,010. Parking machine transactions after 3pm totalled 3,588. (Oct-Dec 2019)

Transactions made via the council’s mobile app totalled 16,035 before 3pm. Mobile app transaction after 3pm totalled 153. (Oct-Dec 2019)

We have contacted Cheshire East Council to ask them if they intend to address the issue, and to determine how much revenue the machines generated after 3pm.