Changes are to be made to a Falmouth car park that has become unpopular for frequent fines.

Custom House Quay car park is owned by Falmouth Harbour, previously known as the harbour commissioners.

It has developed a reputation for frequent fines for motorists getting caught out – but that is all set to change.

Miles Carden, appointed chief executive of Falmouth Harbour last year, having previously led the Spaceport Cornwall project at Cornwall Council, saying: "We're definitely looking at the future and probably not running the car park as it is today.

"These are quite historic quays. I think we see the opportunity after Covid to offer something different in Falmouth.

"People are wanting to go out into Falmouth for a meal in an open space safely. And the traders around the quay are very keen to look at open space for open dining."

He said it was important to still make the revenue from the area, as any surplus was reinvested back into the harbour and community, but added that FHC could make as much money from open dining as the car park currently.

"We can get that back from open restaurant spaces – that wasn't there before Covid," he said, adding: "We want to make Custom House Quay a destination of interest. It's a lovely place to be and parking a car there is just a missed opportunity."

Mr Carden said it was likely there would around a dozen spaces kept, but he envisaged a large part of the area being used differently.

"We'll always retain some car parking on the site, because there are traders that really welcome that, as well as visitors to the marina. I think a short stay pay and display, and long term spaces maybe, for people out on their boats.

"Probably a dozen or so pay and display spaces for immediate traders, and that will probably be about it," he said.

This, added Mr Carden, would stop the issue currently where people would make use of the option to park for a short time for free, for drop-off and pick-ups, but then find themselves accidentally going over the time limit if the queue for the fish and chips took longer than expected, resulting in a fine.

The car park has become increasingly unpopular with those parking in it, particularly since the introduction of the numberplate recognition system.

Mr Carden acknowledged that this caused a lot of the difficulties, saying: "It's quite difficult to input a numberplate in the dark, in the rain, late at night maybe. That does cause a lot of problems. We would like to move away from that – probably a different approach to how we charge."

He stressed that the Harbour Commissioners were "sympathetic" when genuine mistakes had been made, for example a wrong digit being input in the dark, leading to an automatic fine, and that people should get in contact promptly if this happened.

And this was not the only issue, he said, adding: "I think it's the nature of the car park that's the problem, not particularly the operator.

"Unlit at night, people not addressing the fines.

"The quays are not a perfect car park. Cars are getting bigger, spaces are tight. We get a problem with very large cars parking on an historic quay."

Mr Carden said there were some contractual commitments with the current car park operator, but he hoped that changes would be in place by the summer.