SHOPPERS in Aldershot will no longer be able to enjoy free one-hour parking if proposals to chop waiting time to 20 minutes get the go-head.

The 60-minute parking bays in the town centre could go in the new year after the plans got support at this week's meeting of the Aldershot Traffic Focus Group.

The move is all part of Rushmoor Council's wider plans to reduce traffic congestion, improve road safety and make better use of road space.

Since the authority took over control of on-street parking in June it has looked at alternative ways of providing enforcement.

"With the increased level of enforcement we are able to put in parking restrictions and look at putting more systems in place," said head of highways and transport services Jim Pettitt.

He denied the council was stepping up its control, saying it was more about providing innovative ways of free on-street parking.

"If anything we're relaxing them. We're doing away with over-stringent yellow lines and creating more free parking and loading bays."

Under the plans, the main areas affected will be the High Street, Grosvenor Road, Station Road (between the library and the traffic lights), Heathland Street and Frederick Street.

Disabled parking bays will also be provided, and the High Street taxi rank will move round the corner to Court Road.

Town centre manager Jenny Rawlings said the changes would boost the town centre. She denied that slashing the one-hour free stay would inconvenience shoppers.

"It will allow them to pop into the shop, the bank or take-away, get what they want and go. If they want to stay longer, then there's excellent parking facilities open to them. The High Street multi-storey car park is free after 3 o'clock."

Even though the majority of retailers and councillors supported the scheme in principle, there was concern whether Rushmoor's team of 13 traffic wardens was enough to enforce it.

"How do you think you can control it when double yellow lines don't work at the moment?" said Graham Trantham of Jersey Bakery.

Mr Trantham claimed parking restrictions were not being enforced in Station Road, adding: "You'd need an army of traffic wardens."

But Mr Pettitt said the resources were there to bring about effective changes.

He said the proposals would go out to the public for consultation before Christmas.