SHOPPERS using the Cradle Bridge Retail Park in Trowbridge are celebrating, as parking operator Smart Parking has changed its rules and they will no longer have to get a ticket to enjoy three hours free parking there.

The park’s flagship M&S store has been told by management company Smart Parking Ltd, of Birmingham, that they have changed the policy which has cost many local shoppers dear.

A Smart Parking spokesperson said: “We were asked to change the terms and conditions of use by our client which we immediately did.

“Motorists can now get three hours of free parking both with, or without, a ticket. We have ordered new signage which should be up soon. All other terms and conditions are still in place.”

Until now, shoppers could park free for the first three hours but first had to enter their vehicle registration into one of the pay machines – even if their car was parked in a disabled space, carrying a disabled badge.

After complaints that this was not made clear, Smart Parking put up new signs, which were still in place this week. It is not known when the new rules will come into effect.

Scores of drivers have received parking charge notices asking them to pay £80 within 28 days, or £48 if they pay within 14 days. Some successfully appealed the notices on the Parking on Private Land Appeals (POPLA) service website while many others just paid up.

It is understood Smart Parking has scrapped the need for tickets following complaints to M&S and the other stores on the retail park, including Toby Carvery, Papa Johns, Greggs, Domino’s Pizza and Subway.

Shoppers who have spoken to the Wiltshire Times said they had stayed away from the area after receiving fines. M&S would not confirm whether it has seen a drop in trade.

M&S Foodhall store manager Phoebe Bullock said: “Since opening we have been in regular dialogue with our customers about the car parking at the retail park.

“We want the local community to have the very best experience when visiting us and have shared the feedback with Smart Parking throughout.

“We are pleased they have now changed their approach to allow customers three hours of free parking without requiring a ticket.”

Mandi Archer, of Victoria Road, Trowbridge, said: “That’s just fantastic news. I was one of the few who managed to get my fine lifted but hundreds were not quite as lucky.”

“I had to appeal to POPLA but it should never have come to that. If Smart Parking had put the right signage up earlier, this would never have happened. It seemed to target the elderly which was just not right.”

Paul Streeting, of Bradford on Avon, was also thrilled. “This is amazing news. These guys are parking cowboys.” “If it says ‘free parking for three hours’ you do not immediately question it and look for the small print. The fact that they have changed is really good. I have never seen a parking system like it.”

Helen Robinson-Gordon, of Seend, said: “They must have been weighed down by a deluge of complaints. That really is a wonderful development.”

“What they were doing was just bad practice. I was lucky enough to get mine overturned with a bit of due diligence but it should not have come to that. I hope people can get refunded as many will have lost out unfairly.”