Westminster City Council is playing “barmy politics” by introducing evening parking charges in London’s West End, according to a business leader.
Shoppers looking to buy presents in the evening in the run up to Christmas will be faced with £4.80-an-hour parking charges. Free parking was previously available at evenings and weekends in the West End.
The move has been criticised by the Federation of Small Businesses’ London senior development manager Matthew Jaffa, who fears shoppers will desert the high street in favour of retail parks and large shopping centres.
Jaffa said: “Unfortunately it will mean that trade for hotels, retailers and pubs in particular will drop off and business will be driven away. It is a revenue grab and people will go to out-of-town shopping centres because it is too dear to park.
“People will have to use public transport or park on the periphery,” he said. “They will drive into town and circle round, causing more congestion in London, otherwise they will go to Westfield Stratford City and Brent Cross and not shop on the high street.
“It’s going to come in on December 1, the worst possible time. You want people to shop in Oxford Street and central London but this will have an adverse effect, driving them away. It’s barmy politics.”
Westminster City Council said the new parking charges were being introduced to combat congestion at evenings and weekends. There is more traffic at 10pm than 10am in some parts of the city, according to the council’s guide to parking in Westminster. The council aims to increase the turnover of car parking in the area to make it easier for people driving into the capital to find a parking space, the release said.
However, Jaffa believes the new parking policy is designed to raise revenue and not ease traffic in central London.
He said: “If it was just an issue of congestion then we could buy that, but it’s not. It’s an easy way of taxing businesses through parking. They need to see the business reaction to this and rethink this idea. This part of the council needs to work with other parts and look at the retention of business rates rather than just slapping taxes on them.”
Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of businesses in London say extensions to parking restrictions have a negative effect on their trade, Jaffa added.