CHANGES to parking charges in Christchurch town centre will be introduced from today.

The new £1 for two hours parking charge is being introduced after campaigning from the Christchurch Chamber of Trade and Commerce.

The chamber, backed by local traders and business owners, first called for the council to introduce the charge in 2012, starting a petition which gathered more than 5,000 signatures.

After initially rejecting the idea last year, Christchurch council then carried out consultation with organisations including residents’ associations and parish councils.

As no objections or concerns were raised during consultation, the resources committee approved the changes.

Peter Watson-Lee, president of the Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said: “We believe the change is a vital step in supporting the town centre and encouraging the public to use and enjoy what Christchurch is able to offer.

“It is good to be working in partnership with the council to make improvements for businesses and customers alike in the borough and I hope this will be the start of a number of projects where we will be able to do this.”

The new £1 charge will apply to Saxon Square, Bank Close, Wick Lane and Bypass Waitrose car parks and represents a 60p reduction on the current rate.

To offset the £22,000 reduction in annual car park revenue, the three-hour rate in these car parks will rise by 10p to £2.50, the four-hour rate by 20p to £3.40 and the half-hour rate – only applicable at Saxon Square – by 10p to 50p.

A report reviewing the change will be presented to the November resources committee.

Leader of the council, Cllr Ray Nottage added: “This initiative, which we hope will benefit both businesses and customers in the town centre, was developed through working closely with the chamber and we are very pleased that these changes are coming into effect.

“We are continuing to liaise with the chamber to identify further opportunities.”