TRADERS in Newtown Road are celebrating the removal of a 15-minute parking restriction outside their shops, saying the change is not a moment too soon.

Shop owners on the Link Top road started agitating for change after parking enforcement was introduced in October, and they feared the long-ignored 15-minute limit would spell trouble for their businesses.

Their fears were proved correct, with shoppers deserting the area leaving what one trader described as a "ghost town".

They launched a petition calling for a change, and attracted hundreds of signatures within a week. Now new signs have gone up, announcing the revised limit of an hour.

Alison Fish of David G Fish Flooring said: "It's definitely had an effect on us. The council said that they wouldn't be issuing tickets and as far as I know they kept to that, but people saw the signs saying 15 minutes and they stayed away.

"You can't choose a carpet in 15 minutes, or get your hair done in the hairdresser, or choose a suit in Cox's. so they went elsewhere. Who can blame them? You are not going to risk a £40 fine when you can go somewhere else and park for longer."

"There have been days when Newtown Road looked like a ghost town - just no-one parked there at all. Now we're hoping people realise it's changed and come back."

Sam Lupino of clothes shop F L Cox, who organised the petition, said: "We were delighted that so many people signed the petition and genuinely supported our appeal, but it was made very clear by the council that it would take time. We are pleased that the signs have been replaced and an acceptable parking time has been implemented which will benefit the shopping area as a whole."

Allan Smith of Aspect Design said: "Although we are obviously grateful that the council has seen fit to change the restriction to something more sensible, the situation could have been easily avoided with a little prior consultation.

"This is the latest example of the authorities acting without working out the consequence of their decisions. In 2001 we had a battle with MHDC over their decision to impose parking charges in the free car parks on the street, in 2010 the county council proposed painting yellow lines down the road, and then last year we had the problem of a 15-minute parking restriction being enforced. In each case they climbed down but I dread to think what all this has cost tax payers."

County councillor John Raine said: "I raised the matter with our highways officers as soon as the traders contacted me, and it just takes time to go through the legal formalities and consultations."