WEYMOUTH and Portland’s first UKIP councillor has waded into the town’s car park charges debate by suggesting the new charging regime should be better promoted.

While some businesses are reporting increased footfall due to free overnight parking and lower daytime pricing at council car parks, it is claimed not enough is being done to tell people about the changes.

New UKIP councillor Francis Drake, who owns Antonio’s Café, says the message should be out there that Weymouth is charging less for parking. He added that charges should be lower still.

The town has been under fire before for the amount it charges for people to park and it has been suggested that high prices have put people off visiting.

But a parking revolution by Weymouth and Portland Borough Council following a review has seen major changes. It is now free to park from 6pm to 9.30am in most council car parks and pay and display charges have dropped, some by more than 60 per cent. Following a trial, the changes came into force on April 1.

Pricing bands mean it’s cheaper the further from the town centre you park.

In Governors Lane for example it is 70p for half an hour and £1.50 for one hour while at Park Street car park it is 50p for half an hour and £1 for one hour.

Mr Drake, who won the town centre seat last week beating Mayor Ray Banham, believes the new charges are not promoted enough and should be communicated further afield.

He said: “Free evening parking is good but only for evening trade. Lower charges have had no effect at all and a lot of people I speak to complain it’s still too high.

“It doesn’t help if we’re keeping the lower charges to ourselves – people as far away as Bristol need to know about them.

“We don’t tell anyone what our parking arrangements are. This happened before – a year ago the council allowed free parking on Sundays, but apart from some posters in local shops no-one was told.”

He suggested there should be also free out-of-season parking in Weymouth car parks, part funded by BID revenues, and parking refund schemes if visitors spend at local shops.

Chairman of the Weymouth Hotelier and Guesthouse Leaseholders Association Dave Price agreed it wasn’t being promoted enough.

He said: “Everyone who noticed it is pleasantly surprised but it’s a shame we haven’t gone out and advertised it properly.

“I know hotels have put it on their Facebook pages but it would be nice if the council had been more proactive.”

President of Weymouth and Portland’s Chamber of Commerce Julie Cleaver said: “From speaking to businesses we’ve found they have had an increase in the number of customers visiting them. People are making the decision to drive into Weymouth in the evening based on the free parking.”

Alistair Clarke from Weymouth BID said: “Anything to help bring more people into the town is a good thing.

“Promotion is a continual thing though and spreading the word more than once would certainly be good.”

Phil Say from Weymouth Pavilion said: “Free parking in the evening has helped us a lot and we have had an increase in customers.

“It’s benefited the town as whole too.”