CONFUSED drivers searching unsuccessfully for a space in Taunton's pay-as-you-leave car parks have been assured they won't be charged if they leave within 20 minutes.

The message comes after a number of clients late for appointments at a hairdressing salon complained they had been driving around a nearby car park looking for a space.

They were worried they could be penalised for leaving without paying.

Simon Willetts, who owns Combers, in The Courtyard, said there is widespread confusion among car owners attempting to use Canon Street Car Park.

"Clients have told me they've pressed the button to get a ticket on entry and then had to drive around for 15 minutes because they couldn't find anywhere to park," said Mr Willetts.

"They all said they were worried they'd have to pay on their way out, even though they hadn't parked.

"But a parking warden told one of them you get 20 minutes to look for a place. If you can't find one, then you can leave without paying.

"But it's infuriating. People are just wasting their time. If you've got a ticket, you'd assume there's a parking space.

"Apparently there aren't any signs up warning people they aren't guaranteed to find a space and nothing to say they've got 20 minutes' grace.

"Someone said it's because the council doesn't want cars backing up onto Canon Street if the car park is advertised as full at any time."

Somerset West and Taunton recently brought in pay-on-exit payment in town centre car parks and has also put up signs on the entrances to the town advising which car parks have spaces.

A spokeswoman for the authority said: "A system is in place to allow customers plenty of time to leave the pay-on-exit car parks in the event that they enter but cannot find a space to park.

"The council has been closely monitoring the new parking arrangements and is working to address any issues that have been identified.

"There are signs on order that will explain the 20-minute grace period to customers, and these will be displayed at the entrance and exit points."