Traders in Weymouth are welcoming the newly elected council's pledge to review car parking charges.

The charges could even be reduced ahead of the summer months, it has emerged.

The Dorset Council elections saw the Liberal Democrats take control from the Conservatives by a one seat margin following the count on Friday.

Lib Dem group leader Nick Ireland immediately promised changes - including announcing there would be a review of car parking charges, one of the most complained about Tory policies. 

In early 2023 Dorset Council drastically increased the price of using council car parks at popular tourist towns such as Weymouth, West Bay and Lyme Regis.

This decision has caused uproar from local traders who feared visitors would be put off from visiting the town due to the sheer price of parking.

READ MORE: Weymouth traders slam council claims on parking income

Businessman Nigel Sims-Duff, who owns the Palm House Café in Weymouth, located next to two council-owned car parks in Melcombe Regis, labelled the charges as "excessive and unreasonable."

He subsequently started a petition to reduce the car parking charges, claiming that they are damaging Weymouth’s economy.

Dorset Echo: Café owner Nigel Sims-Duff has told how the new parking rates have affected his business Café owner Nigel Sims-Duff has told how the new parking rates have affected his business (Image: Tom Lawrence)

Mr Sims-Duff says this review would be a "welcome change" and hopes the newly elected council will "listen to the voices of the people."

He said: “It’s badly affecting my business. The turn over is down and the biggest contributing factor from customer feedback is the cost of car parking.

"I’d welcome them reviewing the charges and creating a more harmonious parking structure across the county.

“People are discouraged from staying longer in the area. The charge has impacted all of the businesses in the area. Hopefully they will be reduced and make them comparable to other towns in Dorset.”

Lea Phillips owns The Happy Crab Gallery on Gloucester Street in Weymouth.

While she is hopeful that this review will lead to change, she hopes the council will try and support local business to make Weymouth more appealing as a tourist destination. 

Dorset Echo: Lea Phillips owns The Happy Crab Gallery on Gloucester StreetLea Phillips owns The Happy Crab Gallery on Gloucester Street (Image: Cristiano Magaglio)

She said: “I think Weymouth car parks are disproportionately expensive compared to other areas. It’s a town that’s dependant on tourism and we need people come into town.

“I saw the car park charges in two main car parks go up close to my business and it did seem to coincide with a decline in visitors to the business.

"I don’t feel there’s a lot of support for really small businesses particularly in Weymouth. There seems to be zero support for arts and there should be prominent places where local businesses can leave leaflets.

“Weymouth is declining in a lot of ways and local businesses are really struggling, we should want to do everything we can to encourage people to come to Weymouth.

“The council don’t seem to have thought about how to make Weymouth an interesting place to visit. We need to keep Weymouth alive by supporting interesting character businesses that are going to be appealing to tourists.”

'We need to attract people to the town centre'

In new comments since the election victory Cllr Nick Ireland said: “One of the first things we’re going to look at is the car parking charges as I don’t think they should be what they are. It’s like a tourist tax.

"So, we’re going to be asking to bring them down as soon as they can or at the very least not increase them. We're hoping to do this ahead of this summer before the tourists arrive. The charges will be taking money off the tourists making them less likely to come here as well as impacting a lot of local businesses as many have said their revenues down.

"Dorset Council have seemed to ignore them, there was a petition as well which also seemed to get ignored.”

He added: "With the cost-of-living crisis, people are spending less in general and the business rates are very high. In Weymouth, we have Marks & Spencer’ moving out which is going to impact the town centre. We lost Debenhams as well which is a huge blow.

"We need to attract people to the town centre which is difficult enough without having extortionate parking charges.”