Traders have slammed Dorset Council's claims that it has no evidence that parking charges are doing damage to businesses.

As previously reported, Dorset Council has upped charges at its car parks, including the Bridport Arms, Esplanade, Quayside, East Beach, Station Yard and West Bay Road car parks to £15 a day.

This was particularly dramatic at West Bay where the price for a day went from £2 to £8 in 2021, and now to £15.

A report prepared for the Dorset Council September Cabinet meeting says it is difficult to tell if there has been a negative effect on the local economy but says that income from parking fees has gone up.

The price rises have been previously described as 'clumsy' and 'over-simplistic' at a meeting of Bridport Town Council and local businesses say they have certainly felt an impact.

Julien May, of The Customs House Emporium at West Bay, said visitors have been comparing the price of parking to London prices.

He said: "It has been a big increase and our customers are saying it is too much for a little town; they have increased it to London prices.

"The cost of living has gone up so people are watching how they spend their money and parking is one of them.

"I have noticed a drop in people visiting and people have been mentioning the price of parking. They are seeing the difference."

Anna Powell, director of Sladers Yard gallery and cafe , said: "What they can't see is people don't stay as long as they used to. We constantly hear people saying, 'I would like to stay longer but the parking is going to run out'."

Bridport Cllr David Rickard said: "There is no doubt that some outlets at West Bay are noticing a reduction in footfall and that is not good. It is worrying if that is going to be a trend.

"The Dorset Council report does not tell the whole story. At the end of the season, we will look at the figures."

Read more: Concern for West Bay traders as parking prices soar

The new higher level parking fees, which came into effect in May 2023, cover Charmouth, Lyme Regis, West Bay, West Bexington, Portland and Weymouth, where charges of up to £15 for ten hours are now payable in summer, £9 in winter.

The council say the new fees were set after bench-marking against other coastal visitor destination car parks in the south west. A chart produced by the council shows only neighbouring Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole being more expensive for a day's parking at £22; while East Devon charges £8; New Forest £9; Cornwall £10 and Torbay £10.50.