DRIVERS are being reminded controversial changes to parking charges in Dorset towns will be coming into force on April 1.

Dorset Council is introducing the changes to claw back some of the £3m which has been lost in parking charges during the pandemic and to make car park charging more comparable across the council area.

From April 1, Sunday charging will be introduced in towns where it does not already exist. This will happen in Dorchester, Shaftesbury, Sherborne, Sturminster Newton, Blandford, Gillingham, Bridport and Beaminster.

A second change will see car parks in the Purbeck area, which currently have a charging period from 10am to 7pm, charging from 8am to 6pm, aligning with all other council car parks.

In a controversial change that has sparked outrage among shop owners and café managers, the all-day charges at car parks in Lyme Regis and West Bay will be quadrupled - going from £2 to £8.

Drivers using car parks in those areas will be able to choose to park for one hour, two hours, three hours, four hours, six hours or all-day, with one hours parking starting at 50p and the all-day tariff changing to £6 in the low season and £8 during the peak season - April to October inclusive.

For workers who use these car parks, long stay parking permits are available.

An original recommendation by the council to extend evening charges from 6pm to 8pm was withdrawn following concerns voiced by many town and parish councils.

Councillor Ray Bryan, Dorset Council portfolio holder for highways, travel and environment, said: "I feel that these changes strike a balance between supporting our town centres and high streets, as well as ensuring charging is fair and can sustain our car parks across the county.

"The standardisation of car park charging times across the council area will provide residents and visitors with a seamless transition from town to town, knowing exactly when they will need to pay at one of our car parks.

"We're continuing our work to make car park charging more comparable across the council area, which will include in depth discussions with town and parish councils and local accessibility groups. This includes exploring the idea of a council-wide shoppers permit."

For more information and to buy a parking permit, visit the Dorset Council website.