A petition to restore an hour’s free parking in Wiltshire Council car parks has exceeded 1,000 signatures.

The council removed an hour’s free parking from county car parks in April 2011, leaving traders complaining about a downturn in footfall.

The move made the council £4.9m profit in the following year.

Chippenham’s MP Duncan Hames wants to see a free hour restored, a key policy in the Liberal Democrat manifesto for the Wiltshire Council elections last year.

He started a petition six weeks ago in support of town centre businesses, which say they struggle to compete with out-of-town shopping destinations with free parking.

Mr Hames said: “We need to ensure that our high streets thrive and that people using local shops are not penalised with hefty parking charges.

"I want to gather as many signatures as possible to the petition to demonstrate to the Conservative administration that people feel the current parking charge regime to be unfair.”

The petition can be signed online at www.WiltshireFreeParking.org

The Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for Chippenham also launched a campaign for changes to town centre parking, in January this year.

Michelle Donelan, who will stand against Mr Hames and Labour’s Andy Newman in next year’s general election, pledged her support for a reduction in charges.