TRADERS on Winterbourne’s main shopping street claim they have lost huge profit margins because of changes to parking arrangements.

Shopkeepers on Flaxpits Lane say customers are struggling to park anywhere after the hours at a short stay car park were increased, leaving businesses up to 20 per centre out of pocket.

Michael Parsons, who has run The Motorwell car accessories and parts shop for 36 years, said he had never know the situation to be as bad since changes were made to the car park, which has left it open to all day parking.

“I have people coming in all the time saying it has taken them three attempts to park,” he said. “Before Christmas people were driving into the car park and immediately driving back out again. I am losing business as a result – I’m 20 per cent down in the last six months.

“I have never known it as bad as it is now.”

He said the problems started when the 21 short stay spaces at the South Gloucestershire Council-owned car park were reduced to 11, and the number of long stay spaces were increased from 17 to 28, allowing Winterbourne International Academy staff and sixth form students to park there all day.

Yellow lines have also been extended along Flaxpits Lane, the number of disabled parking bays has been reduced and a bus stop has been made bigger.

Michael Rich, who runs his photography businesses on Flaxpits Lane, said: “My studio specialises in baby photography where easy access is of great importance.

“Since the shoppers car park with a few long term spaces became a long term car park with a few short stay spaces, many of my customers have found it difficult to find a space.

“As many once thriving shopping centres discovered, customers rapidly vote with their feet, the shops die.”

He said the sign to the car park advertises it as free for shoppers.

“It is noticeable that many of the newly-created long term spaces have become school overspill,” said Mr Rich. “Clearly, if the spaces are available, local workers/students will grab them before the shoppers arrive to avoid the minor inconvenience of a five-minute walk.”

But Rob Evans, principal of the academy, said there was sufficient parking on site for all staff and contractors who are working on a£19.3million rebuild.

He said: “WIA has negotiated use of the car park of a local business to provide additional capacity as and when required. There is no sixth form parking on site and this has been the position for some time and is not related to the building programme.”

The new build, due to be completed by September 2013, will have a new car park and enhanced cycle facilities for staff and students.

A South Gloucestershire Council spokesman said: "Last year at the request of Winterbourne Parish Council and some local businesses, the council made some changes to the balance between long and short stay spaces in the Flaxpits Lane car park. These changes reduced the number of short stay spaces and increased the number of long stay spaces.

“In the coming months we intend to review the new arrangements in consultation with local people and businesses to make sure that we are providing the optimum combination of short and long term spaces.

"We expect to make a decision on the long-term configuration of parking spaces following this consultation.”