SHOPPERS could start having to shell out money to pay to park at a shopping centre for the first time in nearly 40 years.

Brent Cross Shopping Centre, in Prince Charles Drive, Hendon, has always proudly advertised the fact that it offers free parking for all customers.

But under new plans, it will cost people £1 for up to two hours, £2 for three to four hours, £2.50 for four hours and £3.50 for five hours.

Those wanting to park for six hours will have to pay £6, £12 for six to seven hours, £14 for eight hours and £30 for eight hours or more.

The centre is preparing to be redeveloped by Hammerson and Standard Life as part of the wider £4bn Brent Cross Cricklewood regeneration scheme, and will include a wider range of shops and a new cinema.

Once the regeneration of the centre is complete – due to take place over the next few years – charges will be introduced.

Since opening in the 1970s, parking has always been free at the centre, which currently has 8,000 spaces.

Natalie Kaye, who lives in West Finchley, disagreed with the plans.

The 27-year-old said: “It’s outrageous. Brent Cross was the first big out-of-town shopping centre. The whole point and incentive of that was to have free parking to make it easier for people to get to. Are they expanding it and trying to cover costs by charging customers to park there?

“Less people will want to go. I would rather less shops than having to pay.

“Some people may choose Brent Cross over Intu in Watford at the moment because of free parking – well now if I am paying anyway, I may as well go to Watford, which has more shops.”

In 2013, shopping centre manager Tom Nathan said: “Brent Cross is in need of becoming bigger, more modern and having facilities people really want.

“I’m confident when this is all finished we will have the best shopping centre complex in Europe.”

The charges have been laid out in a report to Barnet council’s planning committee.

A spokesman for the developers said they expected the charges to encourage shoppers, but discourage all-day parking by commuters.

They added that parking charges at Brent Cross will bring the shopping centre into line with practices at other centres across London and further afield.

Public transport will also receive investment as part of the Brent Cross Cricklewood regeneration scheme, with Brent Cross Tube station to be upgraded, which will include step-free access.

Later phases of the regeneration include plans for a new train station on the Midland Mainline, and a larger bus station at Brent Cross Shopping Centre.

The developers declined to comment further on the matter.