FRESHWATER shoppers will be able to park for free this Christmas to celebrate the re-opening of Avenue Road.

Following 12 weeks of roadworks, which has proved hugely disruptive, the road has been reconstructed and resurfaced, the pavements widened and the street scene improved with new planters and pedestrian crossing points.

The scheme has been completed by Island Roads, in partnership with Freshwater Parish Council and the Isle of Wight Council, on schedule.

As a goodwill gesture to the town, its traders and residents, Island Roads will underwrite the cost of free parking at Avenue Road car park until Christmas.

Parish Cllr Mike Wheeler said: "The idea started four-and-a-half years ago. We wanted to regenerate the heart of Freshwater and make Avenue Road more of an avenue by planting trees, erecting timber posts and putting in some flowers in wooden troughs to enhance the area.

"I am confident the scheme represents a major improvement to the street scene and confirms Freshwater is open for business.

"As a parish council, we have contributed £26,000 to the work and have been involved throughout, and would like to use our knowledge to help other local councils with these major roadwork schemes."

Island Roads deputy service director, Steve Ashman, said: "This has been much more than a resurfacing scheme. Not only have we rebuilt the foundations of the road to make it more durable in the future, we have created a number of improvements to make Avenue Road a more pedestrian-friendly shopping area.

"As a result of all this work however, there has been an inevitable impact on the area over recent weeks. We wanted to recognise the patience and understanding shown by businesses and residents, and we would urge residents to make use of this free parking to enjoy this newly-improved area and, of course, to support local traders."