THE arrival of new parking meters in Dorchester has triggered a massive rise in the number of parking fines imposed in the town.

Figures obtained by the Dorset Echo under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed an extra 500 parking fines imposed since the meters were installed.

A total 1,787 fines were imposed in the town between August and December last year, compared to 1,286 over the equivalent period in 2008 – a rise of nearly 40 per cent.

Peter Noble, chief executive of Dorchester and District Chamber of Commerce, conducted a survey of over 100 businesses in November last year that revealed 60 per cent felt people were staying away because of the new meters.

He said: “It’s very disappointing that people coming into the town get penalised all the time.

“I know they shouldn’t park where they are not meant to park but I have had notes from visitors who say they are not coming back because of it.”

Roye Membury, who owns long-standing Dorchester cleaning firm Legg and Son, said he had received four parking tickets in the town centre while carrying out his work and, while they had all since been rescinded, he was given a final warning.

Mr Membury said: “It’s ridiculous, they don’t have to give you any warning and even if you leave your vehicle for five minutes they give you a fine. A lot of shops are saying they can see the impact.”

Mr Membury said he would like to see parking attendants act with more understanding.

The figures were for the county council’s area of responsibility, for parking on the streets.

They showed that the total amount of revenue accumulated from parking fines in Dorchester for the 2008/9 financial year was £120,486, up from £115,638 the previous year.

That rise defied the trend across the county, with income falling from £446,006 to £397,721.

Dorset County Council’s parking services manager Anne-Marie Goodbody said the rise in parking fines in Dorchester was partly down to the new parking meters but also a result of the extension of residents’ parking in the Victoria Park area.

She added that all money accumulated in fines would go back into parking enforcement.

Mrs Goodbody added: “If there’s a surplus it will be used for other things to improve the service, for example we are now looking to offer a pay by phone facility.”

She said the council had a statutory appeals procedure in place for anybody who wished to contest their fines, which costs nothing for drivers and they are simply asked to put their case in writing.

l According to Dorset County Council, the penalty charges varied depending on the type of offence but the standard charge was £50, which was reduced to £25 if paid within 14 days.