Visitors spent longer in Brighton and Hove over the weekend – with free parking encouraging them to stay and shop.

In the second Sunday of three in the lead up to Christmas drivers were treated to free parking at car parks in Trafalgar Street, High Street, London Road, Norton Road and Regency Square.

The Green administration had previously called the plans “anti-business” and warned of the potential costs, but a majority of councillors voted against them.

Richard Wood, 45, from Littlehampton said not having to pay for parking would encourage his family to have a meal in the city.

He added: “The price of parking absolutely affects whether I come to Brighton or not.

“I was really happy to find out it was free today, because usually the charges are too much. I’ve paid £18 to park here before.”

Ellie Pall, 19, from Bedford said: “We stayed in a hotel overnight and were planning to leave this morning.

“When we found out about the free parking we decided to stay in Brighton and do some shopping.”

But some shoppers complained the free parking was not well advertised and did not make up for parking charges through the rest of the year.

Gareth Newton, 29, from Uckfield said: “We don’t come to Brighton a lot because of the parking charges. They’re really ridiculous.”

As shoppers parked for free, traders welcomed a rise in business since the start free parking and last week’s Small Business Day, a national event aimed at promoting local and independent enterprises.

Robert Caulfield, 69, at Taylors Tobacconist on Bond Street said: “These last two weekends have been excellent.

“Havana cigars and shaving accessories are selling particularly well.”

Shop owners agreed that free parking had helped business. Abi Whiteaker-Durham, 22, and Cicely Drew, 18, who work at Gelato Gusto in North Laine said: “We’ve been really surprised at how well we’ve been doing the last few weekends.

“A lot of people seem to want ice cream even though it’s so cold and wet.”

Eric Danot, 62, at Bonzai-Ko on Sydney Street said: “It’s fluctuated a lot - last week was really good because of the free parking and yesterday was great, but today it’s been slow.”

Brighton Area Buswatch said traffic levels during the first free parking day, on Saturday December 7, were “similar to a normal Saturday”.

They added: “Brighton and Hove Buses were very busy and carried 5% more passengers than on the same Saturday last year, including an estimated 2,000 under 16s travelling free.

“So perhaps buses were the real success story that day. Small businesses please take note.”

Free parking will be available again on Sunday.