Traders are furious after it was revealed parking charges have been put up at three city centre car parks.

Motorists visiting the multi-storey NCP operated car parks in Brighton will now be charged as much as £2.80 to leave their cars for an hour.

Drivers will be charged 70p for every 15 minutes they leave vehicles at the North Road and Church Street car parks following increases of 10p per quarter of an hour by NCP.

Visitors to the Russell Road car park near Regency Square will now be charged 60p per 15 minutes.

It means if the 162 spaces in North Road, 587 in Church Street and 536 in Russell Road are filled, the company will make £3,383 every hour.

Charges will not be increased at NCP's other six car parks in the city.

The move has infuriated traders in the North Laine area, where two of the car parks are located.

Peter Stocker, secretary of the North Laine Traders Association, said: "Every time prices are put up we suffer. The more difficult and expensive it is for shoppers to come in to Brighton, the less likely they are to come."

NCP spokesman Tim Cowen said the price rises had been made as part of an annual price review.

He said they were in line with inflation and were necessary because of increased charges for the utilities needed to run the car parks.

But Soozie Campbell, city centre manager for Brighton and Hove Business Forum, said high car park prices and on-street parking restrictions had already resulted in people "mission shopping".

She said: "People work out exactly what they want to buy, stop on double-yellow lines outside the shop, buy it and leave the centre again. That's no good for business. We need people to stay and do more shopping."

The new prices are in stark contrast to charges in other shopping areas in Sussex.

Visitors to Eastbourne can pay £2.50 to stay in the NCP facility in Trinity Square for two hours, or the same price at the Arndale Centre car park for four hours.

In Hastings, the council-run Priory Street multi-storey car park charges 90p per hour and in Crawley the Boulevard East and West car parks, run by NCP, cost £1.80 for an hour.

In Worthing, where all car parks are NCP-run, it costs 40p every 15 minutes to use the High Street multi-storey complex.

Mrs Campbell said the increases in Brighton seemed to be the latest stage in a series of moves to deter visitors from driving into the city.

She said: "It is all very well discouraging people from driving, but it will only work if the right alternatives are in place. Brighton needs a decent park-and-ride system running from a large, easily accessible site on the edge of the city."

She said the park- and-ride running from Withdean Stadium was only a realistic option for people who knew the area.

One consolation for motorists is that Brighton and Hove City Council, which operates other large car parks in the city, has no plans to increase its rates. It charges users of The Lanes car park 80p per half hour. A council spokesman said: "While we keep our parking tariffs under regular review, there are no specific plans at this point."