It is one of the most controversial new charges Southampton’s motorists have faced in decades.

Now businesses in a busy Southampton street have hit out at the new evening parking levy, saying it is already leading to a loss in trade.

Oxford Street traders spoke out after the controversial new charges were implemented by the city council in January.

As reported in the Daily Echo, motorists now have to pay £2 to park on city centre streets from 6pm to 8pm, and from 6pm to midnight in car parks.

Council chiefs have already admitted there have been “teething problems” with the scheme and that improvements were being carried out.

Opposition councillors have criticised its “chaotic” implementation, with motorists complaining that meters do not allow them to buy tickets before 6pm that will continue their parking session after 6pm.

The council has already changed the charges so evening parking tickets can be rolled over into the following morning after the Daily Echo highlighted the issue.

And city council leader Simon Letts told officers to amend the charges so people turning up at meters minutes before the 8pm deadline don’t have to pay the full £2.

The council says the charges will help pay for, and improve, the car parking operation. Surplus funds raised will be used on road repairs.

The council says it is on target to raise double its annual target of £200,000.

Restaurants and bars in Oxford Street say they have seen a loss in custom since the new charges came in.

Ian Silsbury, from tapas restaurant La Esquina, said: “There’s definitely been a downturn in the amount of people visiting the street in the evenings. People used to be fighting for spaces, now there are always spaces.”

Phillip Kalfas, manager of Simon’s restaurant, said: “It’s definitely had an impact on the number of people visiting.

“It seems silly. You want the streets to be busy in the evening, so what are they trying to achieve?”

Alfredo Ndoci, from Italian eatery Skoozi, said: “There has been a very, very noticeable drop in trade.

“We are already paying a lot in business rates, so why are we being penalised in another way like this?”

And Marc Wilson, manager at the White Star Tavern, said: “It’s something that a lot of people haven’t been used to and we get a lot of angry feedback from people.”