FREE parking for key workers at council-run car parks, including sites in Gillingham and Shaftesbury, has now ended.

Near the start of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown, Dorset Council suspended parking charges in its car parks across the county.

These charges were reinstated for most people from June 15, when shops on high streets and town centres opened their doors to the public again. Key workers were allowed to carry on parking for free but, as of yesterday, will have to pay again.

It says the scheme was always intended to run until the end of June so, with the further relaxing of travel restrictions and the imminent reopening of restaurants and cafes, “the time is right” to return to normal charging practices.

While ticket machines will accept cash, contactless payment methods via the Just Park service is being encouraged.

Councillor Ray Bryan, Dorset Council portfolio holder for highways, travel and environment, said: "Dorset Council will always be grateful to those key workers who supported our communities during the worst of the Covid-19 lockdown period.

"But with the gradual relaxation of travel restrictions, changed public health guidance and the reopening of shops, it is now the right time for us to get back to normal in how we charge for the use of our car parks.

“Enforcement officers will use their discretion and initially be lenient if any key workers appear to continue parking for free in the immediate future.

“But this won’t last long, so I recommend everyone re-acquaints themselves with our parking charges sooner rather than later.”