A BUSY town centre car park will close earlier in the evenings in bid to deter crime and antisocial behaviour.

Colchester Council has announced St John’s car park, off Southway, Colchester, will close from 7pm every evening, as opposed to its previous 10.30pm closing time.

The authority says the move has been prompted by increasing incidents of antisocial behaviour and crime by small minority of people late at night.

There has also been a sharp drop in demand for evening parking since lockdown measures came into force two months ago.

Council bosses say the move will be reviewed again in July.

Mike Lilley, councillor responsible for communities, wellbeing and public safety, said: “We have taken the decision to close St John’s car park earlier than normal to help deter crime and antisocial behaviour.

“Some of the behaviour we have been witnessing recently is unacceptable and we will no longer tolerate it.

“We want to ensure motorists who pay to park there have a safe and clean environment in which to leave their vehicles.

“In addition, we have seen a significant reduction in footfall in the town centre since lockdown began, so it also makes some commercial sense to close the car park early to help reduce our operating costs until life returns to normal.”

The announcement follows approval for a three-year extension to the Public Space Protection Order which covers nine council-run car parks in Colchester town centre.

The order bans groups congregating and drinking or using drugs, damaging property nearby and causing a nuisance using their vehicles.

It also bans unauthorised encampments from setting up on council-owned car parks.

The council says alternative late-night parking is available St Mary’s, Vineyard Street and Britannia car parks nearby.

Earlier this month a police investigation was launched when woman reported she had been raped inside St John’s car park.

The attack took place at around 4.30pm on May 1.

A man, 37, has been arrested but released on bail until June 1.

To find out more about alternative parking sites, visit colchester.gov.uk/parking.