CHANGES are afoot for car parking charges in the Forest of Dean.
Council leaders want to introduce a minimum two-hour stay at town centre sites and plan to make season tickets vastly cheaper in an effort to sell more of them.
Charges were brought in at 10 district council car parks for the first time in July 2012, despite sustained protests against them.
Currently, it costs 20p for an hour at all the sites but there are plans for the car parks in the four towns to have a starting tariff of 40p for two hours.
It means the prices won’t, in effect, go up but drivers will have to pay a minimum 40p to visit Newent, Coleford, Cinderford and Lydney instead of 20p.
Rural car parks including Mitcheldean and Redbrook will stay as they are.
Season ticket prices could be slashed to “make them more attractive” too.
A six-month permit could go from £105 to £72, a three-month one from £60 to £42 and an annual one from £180 to £120. Monthly permits could go from £24 to £16.
Shoppers and traders were unconvinced at the proposed changes, which form part of the proposed 2014/15 budget.
One Newent resident said: “Two hours minimum is too long.
“I would be willing to bet the average shopping time of shoppers in Newent is less than an hour. It won't encourage people to stay longer at all.”
Claire Ball, owner of BM&C Weston florists in Coleford, said the town was fighting back against charges.
“It’s been not a very good year, we’ve lost 13 shops but three new ones have just opened up so things are looking up,” she said. “But I don’t think people can realistically spend two hours in Coleford so I don’t think it will work.
“It’s a lovely little town, we’ve got the best Christmas lights and some wonderful shops but this won’t help.”
However, the man behind the proposed changes thinks people are missing out at the moment.
Councillor Brian Robinson, cabinet member for finance, said: “What we have found is that charging 20p has generated about £140,000 and the cost of running the car parks is £160,000, so it’s just a bit short.
“It also helps with one of the main concerns people have, which is that visitors are rushing around trying to get everything done in an hour and not enjoying their time in the towns, taking a bit of time and seeing what else is on offer.”
He said the season ticket reductions were about “finding a balance” between not filling the car parks completely but giving regular users a good deal.