THOUSANDS of shoppers have returned to Southend after the two hour minimum parking charge was scrapped.

An extra 8,500 visitors more than the same time last year have parked in the town since it was scrapped with as many as 13,000 more shoppers.

Southend Council ditched the unpopular two-hour minimum £1.90 charge in October after revealing it had contributed heavily to a £3.1million deficit for the council.

The charge meant motorists had to pay for at least two hours even if they only popped into to town for 30-minutes after a one-hour minimum was scrapped. Falling numbers of visitors in town also left traffic wardens issuing fewer penalty charge notices.

Figures for October and November, after the council reinstated the £1.10 one-hour fee has attracted thousands more shoppers into town centre car parks, giving a boost to business.

Deputy leader Ron Woodley said: “We estimate these figures equate to an additional 13,000 visitors to the town centre.

“The town centre seems so much more busy now, with car parks fuller and footfall better.”

The scheme was brought in by the Conservative administration in 2018. Tony Cox, who oversaw the scrapping of the one-hour band said: “I’m pleased to see businesses benefitting from one-hour parking. I have said repeatedly that we got that one wrong.

“We were going to bring the one-hour band back so we’re pleased that happened. Now we are just hoping they remove the two-hour minimum on the seafront as we were going to do.”

The council is currently looking at a scheme to bring in parking permits for residents living in the Southend Borough and in surrounding areas of south Essex. These would have a fee of approximately £7 month and would give three-hours free parking anywhere in the borough at any time of day. Motorists could then pay a top up charge or move to another spot in town for another three hours free parking. Councillor Woodley added: “We are doing a feasibility study at them moment and I hope to have all the details by March.”