FREE long-stay parking in the village centre has become a nightmare because of new park-and-ride charges, residents and workers have said.

They say commuters are parking at Curtis Place and getting a bus into Oxford to avoid the new charges at Water Eaton park-and-ride.

A £2-a-day parking charge was introduced by Oxfordshire County Council in November on top of the £2.70 bus return fare.

Cherwell District Council provides 60 free long-stay spaces at Curtis Place alongside 85 spaces limited to two hours.

Rosie Weikert, a senior stylist at Michael & Company salon in The Kidlington Centre said the car park was now a nightmare.

She said: “People are having to go out with wet hair to move theirs and some have had parking tickets, which isn’t good for us.”

Increasing the short-stay section from two to four hours would help workers and visitors, she said.

Hayley Cleaver, a director at the business, said: “If I arrive here at eight in the morning it is chock-a-block. It never used to be.”

Park-and-ride charges had put pressure on spaces, she said, adding: “I do a lot of hair extensions with people here for five hours at a time.

“Some people have said ‘I don’t have time, I will just have it cut and not blow dried.”

Businesses have a limited number of dedicated spaces but other staff have to use the public car park. Since January 2013, 33 motorists have been fined for over-staying in short-stay bays.

Margaret Young, of Andrew’s of Oxford Ltd dry cleaners, also in the centre, said: “I come in at eight in the morning and there used to be a few cars, now it is nearly full.”

Park Avenue resident Terry Eason, 64, who helps out at Anemone florist by the car park, said: “It is a pain. It is getting to the stage where I have to use my bike.”

Andrew Scott, manager of the centre’s Topsport, said: “It has got worse since they started charging. It is first come first served.”

Shops in Oxford Road, near the park-and-ride, last November said more commuters were parking on the street and in spaces to avoid charges.The county council proposed a two-hour limit on the side by Thames Valley Police HQ but put it on hold following concerns it would move parking to the other side of the road.

Kidlington Parish Council chairman David Betts said he would look into the issue, adding: “I’m keen to see adequate parking for workers so we can the viability of the High Street and the village centre.”

He said of Oxford Road: “It is a real problem and that is not going to go away until we manage it or charges are lifted. But I don’t think the charges will be lifted.”

District council spokeswoman Jemma Callow said: “The council is aware that the long-stay Curtis Place car park is being well used. The legal order sets out the car park regulations which must be adhered to. It cannot however, restrict drivers to the purpose of their stay.

“In any case it would be impossible to identify which vehicles belong to commuters or Kidlington visitors/workers.

“The short-stay time limit is unlikely to be extended. This would impact on the turnover of spaces and could also enable drivers enough time to make visits outside Kidlington, thus having an adverse effect on local trade.”