Local authorities must adopt a more “common sense” approach to parking enforcement and be more transparent about how their parking income is raised and used, a Transport Select Committee report says.

The report suggests a number of changes to help ensure that parking charges, penalty notices and other enforcement measures are used appropriately and do not discourage motorists from visiting town centres and high streets.

The changes would also help to change the “deep-rooted public perception that local authorities view parking enforcement as a cash cow,” it says.

Recommendations include greater clarity on the rules for loading and unloading, and for local authorities to implement a grace period of five minutes after the expiry of parking tickets.

The MPs also call for a freeze on the maximum penalty charge for a breech of parking regulations and for local authorities to introduce a 25% penalty charge discount for motorists who pay within seven days of losing a parking appeal.

Local Authorities currently offer a 50% discount if motorists pay a parking penalty charge within 14 days. This discount is lost however if motorists chose to appeal.

The report called for the creation of “more innovative parking solutions” for town centres and for the government to develop business rate relief for businesses that invest in affordable town centre parking solutions.

“The setting of parking charges in order to raise revenue is not only unacceptable in public policy terms, it is illegal. Local authorities must be more transparent about where their parking income comes from and how it is used,” the report says.

Welcoming the report, Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said: “Sufficient affordable parking is vital to a successful centre. The use of incentives, such as business rates discounts, to encourage the provision of more affordable parking is a good idea that should be explored further.”