FREE parking could help a flood-hit town get back on its feet faster say beleaguered traders.

Shoppers and traders can reap the benefits of free parking in Upton's two main car parks for most of this month. The concessions began on Saturday (March 1) and run until Sunday, March 23 thanks to Malvern Hills District Council plans to boost business after the crippling floods.

Upton was well-protected by flood defences but roads into the town were underwater, blocking main routes in and out of the town, including over the bridge from the A4104. Soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment ferried people across the water from Holly Green and Ryall in troop carrier vehicles between Saturday, February 15 to Wednesday, February 19. The 'buses' ran between 8am and 5.30pm each day, transporting in the region of 100 people each day.

But after the troops departed, the district council has stepped in as a bulwark for business with free parking at Hanley Road Car Park (202 spaces and six disabled spaces) and New Street car park (15 spaces and two disabled spaces). The cost of parking at either car park would normally cost 50p for up to an hour, £1 for two hours, £2 for up to four hours and £3 for up four hours plus with a £1.50 charge between 6pm and midnight while a seven day ticket would cost £9.

Peter Webb, the mayor of Upton, who met Prime Minister David Cameron during last month's visit, said the town council had been keeping in close contact with Malvern Hills District Council since the floods began. The leader of the district council, Cllr David Hughes, had been to visit to see for himself the devastation. Cllr Webb said: "The defences worked but the bridge was out and Hanley Road was out. The only way out of the town was up Tunnel Hill, making Upton a cul-de-sac with only one way in and one way out. The takings in some shops are down by 40 to 50 per cent. As a result of the close contact the town council has had with the district council, bless their cotton socks, they decided to help us a free parking concession for March."

Annette Keyworth of Value for Money, chairman of the Upton Tourism and Trade Association, said: "This is a good thing and we appreciate all their helps and it was in response to lobbying from businesses but they need to put some signs up."