Dublin City Council has ruled out free parking as an incentive to shoppers this Christmas.

In previous years the council had given free or reduced fees at weekends during the Christmas shopping period.

However, chief executive Owen Keegan said this is now contrary to council policy.

A business group called Dublin Can Be Heaven which includes Costelloe + Costelloe and Eirlooms retailers are opposed to the proposed pedestrianisation of streets in the Grafton Street area being introduced before Christmas. They fear that some businesses may be forced to close by the New Year.

In a letter to Mr Keegan the group said previous pedestrianisation trials "had the effect of dissuading car-borne shoppers from coming into the city centre. These shoppers are vital to the survival of many of our members".

The group asked the council to assist their own scheme which allows customers one hour free parking.

However, Mr Keegan stated in reply that "it would be contrary to City Council policy to incentivise access to the city centre even in off peak times by private car".

A survey by the larger retail representative group DublinTown found that 50% of their members agreed with seven day pedestrianisation of a number of streets but 35% wanted this confined to weekends while 15% were opposed.

The council is carrying out a public consultation on the proposed pedestrianisation or part pedestrianisation of South Anne Street, Dame Court, Drury Street and South William Street. A decision  is expected at the start of next month.

Meanwhile, resurfacing and footpath widening works are being carried out.