Traders in west Dorset have hit out at the council's claim that this year's poor car park income was caused by bad weather and not the higher price of parking.

In early 2023 Dorset Council increased the price of using council car parks at popular tourist towns such as West Bay, Lyme Regis and Weymouth.

During the summer day-long parking cost £15. This has come down in the winter rate of £9 for the day, which is still higher than it was in 2022.

As previously reported by the News, the council forecast a 25% increase in parking fees each month but saw only 4.3% in July and 6% in August.

The director in charge of these services, Matthew Piles, told councillors that the summer had been much worse for visitor numbers than expected, causing a big dip in anticipated car park income. A council spokesperson blamed this dip on poor weather.

Traders in west Dorset say that rather than the weather, visitors were turned away by the price of parking itself.

Beverley Beavis, director of Customs House Emporium in West Bay said: "I disagree that the poor weather was the primary reason - I think it is because they upped the car parking prices so much that people thought otherwise about coming down, particularly with the economic situation.

"We had so many complaints about the car park. It has affected everyone, locals too. Unless they do something about it, it will have an effect next year."

In addition to the weather, a Dorset Council spokesperson blamed the success of its permit offer and delays in tariff changes due to the installation of new machines.

Steve Attrill, owner of The Watch House in West bay, said: “The charges don’t exactly help to attract people, but the weather this summer was pretty miserable for the most part.

“High car park tariffs are not unique to West Bay, but we want diners to stay local and not ever be put off by the price of parking.

“We’re devising our own ways to try to combat the issue, such as our parking ticket reimbursement scheme which we run alongside our Sunday roasts.

“Ultimately the numbers don’t lie. Combined footfall across all three of our sites was down this summer compared to what it was in 2022. Parking is just one contributing factor to this, and we do appreciate that the council must recoup money somewhere."

Anna Powell, the owner of Sladers Yard in West Bay said: "Everybody has been complaining about the parking, absolutely everybody. It is obviously a factor and it affects all of us.

"I think the parking charge increase puts people off and makes it less affordable. I think the charge should come down."

Annie Hanbury, the owner of Baboo Gelato who has several locations across the Dorset Coast said: "There were definitely fewer people around, but whether that was because of the weather is hard to say.

"West Bay seems to have been affected more, but whether that was because from last year more people were able to go abroad is hard to say. We will see next year."