FREE parking in Abingdon and Wantage has been hailed a success by council bosses after figures appear to show a spike in visitor numbers.

But town traders yesterday said a rise in footfall was yet to translate into a rise in profits.

Vale of White Horse District Council began offering the two hours in December at a cost of £250,000 a year in a bid to boost town centre trade.

And council statistics show 57,717 drivers used the two hours free at car parks in Abingdon, Wantage and Faringdon in January.

In the same period last year 20,397 drivers paid to park for one hour.

In Abingdon 37,265 motorists took advantage of the offer compared to 12,999 staying for one hour last year.

Figures for long-term stays were not available.

Peter Wiblin, owner of West End Newsagents in the precinct, said: “It’s encouraging. More visitors means more casual business.”

Linda Hatter, Wantage Chamber of Commerce chairman, said she had seen more people in the town.

But Vincent Montgomery, of Vincent Montgomery’s Traditional Butchers in Wallingford Street, said: “This week just gone has been the quietest week I can remember. Things are getting tighter and tighter.”

Vale of White Horse District Council leader Matthew Barber said: “They are early results but they are encouraging. The point was to get more people in the towns and that certainly seems to be what it is doing.”