SHOPPERS and traders are outraged at Rochford Council plans to charge motorists 25 per cent more to use its car parks and bring in new Saturday charges.

Under the increases motorists will have to pay £1 an hour instead of 80p.

Rayleigh Chamber of Trade president Carl Watson is one of those who is furious about the move, which he described as a blow to the district.

He explained: “Hockley and Rochford are still struggling towns, and while Rayleigh has improved in terms of the number of visitors, it would be detrimental to the district.

“I understand why the council wants to raise more revenue, but it’s a shame it has to be through parking charges.”

The increases could be the first ofa series of rises which the council hopes will see it rake in about £1.4million a year in parking charges by 2018/19.

However, the council insists plans to charge for Saturday afternoon parking are not just to boost its coffers.

It says it is “to encourage the turnover of parking and make available more spaces for visitors”.

Hockley’s chamber of trade president Jeff Stanton who runs the Waters and Stanton electronics store in Main Road is aghast at the increase.

He said: “The last thing businesses in Hockley want at the moment is a deterrent to shoppers and visitors, and that is what this would be. Even though we are out of the recession now, businesses are still struggling.”

Colin Maclean, who runs Amos estates in Rayleigh High Street, garnered a welter of critical comments after posting details of the plans on the social networking website Facebook.

In the space of 14 hours, more than 100 people commented, most criticising the proposal.

Mr Maclean said he hopes the charges would not have too much of an effect on trade.

He added: “There’s is a fine line between councils balancing the books and attracting people to town centres.

“Given a choice, no one wants to pay anything, but if people are only staying here for an hour , on average, then I’m hoping an extra 20p will not be enough to push them out to Lakeside.”

The new charges were discussed at a full council meeting on Tuesday night where councillors agreed to introduce them.

A report published in October by the Government's Commons Transport Select Committee said there was a “deep-rooted” public perception councils used parking charges to raise funds.