A RISE in town centre visitors has been sparked after a council reclaimed control of its multi-storey car parks and slashed charges.

Worthing Borough Council’s trial of £1 an hour parking in three multi-storey car parks has seen occupancy increase by 11% compared to last year and shoppers are staying up to five times longer in the town.

Motoring groups now want to see Brighton and Hove City Council follow suit. Worthing Borough Council regained control of car parks in High Street, Grafton and Buckingham Road at the beginning of April and reduced prices. Since then 6,000 more monthly visitors are parking and top selling tickets are now for two hours and five hours compared to last year where one hour tickets were the most bought.

The £1 an hour trial will continue until the end of June and could be continued.

Council and business bosses say the longer stays are having a significant impact on the town centre’s shops, cafés and leisure businesses.

Sharon Clarke, manager of the Worthing Town Centre Initiative, said: “We’ve noted a marked increase in footfall over the past few weeks, which when you consider that almost every other town is seeing a decline, is incredibly good news for Worthing. “The new parking charges are already having a positive effect on the town centre – more people are coming and they are staying longer, and as a result, businesses are seeing a growth in sales.”

Paul Yallop, leader of Worthing Borough Council, said: “It takes time to change people’s parking habits, so we were not expecting such significant results so soon. “I’m delighted that our town centre businesses are already seeing the benefits and it seems Worthing is becoming an important retail and leisure destination, not just for local residents, but for miles around.” Steve Percy from the People’s Parking Protest said: “Brighton needs to learn a lesson from other towns.

“In Eastbourne you can park on the seafront for just 20p an hour.

“They need to reduce parking in Brighton to a reasonable level to encourage more people to come in.”

Councillor Ian Davey, Brighton and Hove City Council lead member for transport, said parking charges in the city had been frozen for the past two years as well as introducing targeted deals including £1 an hour during the week, free weekend parking at Norton Road for hotel guests, and reductions in prices at London Road and Regency Square car parks.

He added: “Here in Brighton and Hove, we often have queues of people stuck in traffic waiting to get into the city on busy weekends, so encouraging more drivers at these times isn’t good for visitors or businesses.”