TWENTY minutes of free parking will be offered by a council following huge opposition to a hike in charges.
Havant Borough Council is offering free spaces for people visiting the shops in Mengham, Hayling Island, in a bid to help businesses affected by the fee increases.
The scheme is being run as a pilot – and if successful could be extended to other parts of Havant borough.
Traders today called on the council to extend it to other areas.
Lesley Petrie, who runs a wool shop in East Street, Havant, said: ‘If people are coming in just to get one particular thing, this will definitely help.
‘I think it would be quite an incentive for shoppers and is a good idea.’
The pilot comes after the council increased parking charges from 70p to £1 an hour in February.
Mengham was worst hit as there are very few free spaces to park.
A total of 2,500 people have signed a petition to get the council to reduce the charges, as well as scrap a proposal to charge people visiting Hayling Island Health Centre.
Residents welcomed the pilot scheme, but said their campaign to overturn the health centre proposals would continue.
Twelve parking bays will be marked with 20-minute restrictions in two council car parks off Elm Grove by the end of May.
Councillor David Collins, who oversees parking, said: ‘One of the things that has kept coming up is that just to buy a paper or pay a bill, it will cost you a pound to park.
‘We have looked at some way we can get round that.
‘Hayling is a bit different because there’s no free parking near to the shops. There is in West Town, but not in Mengham.
‘If it’s successful which we would hope it is, it could be extended to the rest of the borough.
‘If we find it’s not working, we will modify it but we have to start somewhere.’
But he said plans for the health centre charges were still on the cards.
He said: ‘It seems a bit of an anomaly that people don’t pay at Hayling, but do pay at Havant.’