LIFTING car parking charges for the “odd weekend” is not encouraging shoppers back to the county’s town centres, and only complicates the situation, says the chairman of the local Federation of Small Businesses.

Stephen Cole, who runs Milford Haven-based telecommunications company The Telephone Exchange, said that small town centres had competed with the larger town and city excursions by Christmas shoppers for many years, but now two or more ‘centres’ were competing in the same town, one with parking charges – one without.

He told the Mercury: “Our members have also found that parking fees have created a ‘habit forming’ syndrome.

Shoppers have tended to associate car parking fees and penalties with traditional town centre shopping and therefore try to avoid that situation.

“Our members have also found that the relaxing of these fees for a short period only complicates the situation. Members found that car parking fees and penalties have also formed a lasting impression that shopping in town centres is more expensive and indeed, more of a hassle, discouraging shoppers.”

“They feel that either car parking should be completely abolished or all retail parking should be chargeable at a standard rate.”

Mr Cole said another suggestion was that if there was no alternative to parking charges, the authorities should provide “added value” to the shopper, who would then feel they are getting something for the additional expense.

He added: “It was felt that this ‘added value’ incentive should not be provided by the town centre shops as they were not benefiting from the car parking fees.

Although parking refunds have been tried by some shops, with very limited success.”