Jason Dibbert, who has owned Browsers Beds and Furniture who have been at the centre for 10 years, said: “I’ve read some of the negative comments about parking but I have no heard any negative comments from any customers who’ve come through our doors in the past three months.

For a town centre location to offer two hours of free parking is practically unheard of these days.

We think it’s very positive as it encourages people to spend their money in the community and helps to support local jobs.”

Figures released by the shopping centre said that 0.7 per cent of drivers received £100 parking fines in the months of December and January, while the figure was 0.2 per cent for February.

Raj Patel, who set up the Central Café nine years ago, said it was an important move to combat online retailers.

He said: “The free parking is a great initiative and is something I’ve been asking for for many years – it didn’t seem fair that only Asda customers could claim back the cost of their parking.

The move towards online shopping makes it even more important to incentivise people to come out and shop.

Offering a couple of hours free parking is a great footfall driver for the centre and does not just benefit retailers at Cockhedge Shopping Centre but retailers across Warrington town centre.”

The shopping centre’s manager apologised to customers who had been fined but said the move had been warmly welcomed.

George Wesson said: “While we always knew hundreds of thousands of shoppers would benefit from the introduction of free parking in Warrington even we were surprised to find out it would be so many.