It’s the spat that’s seen Michel Roux Junior, West End theatres and mayor Boris Johnson come together as an unlikely yet formidable army. The battle against Westminster Council’s proposed implementation of extortionate parking charges out-of-hours (and by extortionate we mean £4.80 an hour) pitted the council against business large and small in the West End.
Companies and mayoral candidates were justifiably outraged at the loss of business that could well result, since driving customers would stop visiting the West End if they had to pay so much to park.
The proposed “tax on nightlife” was thankfully postponed by the High Court on December 14 with a plan to review the proposals after the Olympics. But local businesses and the mayor were spited once again yesterday upon the Evening Standard’s discovery that Westminster Council quietly ordered the removal of more than 1,000 West End parking spaces just before Christmas.
The announcement came on 23 December that the council plans to convert 16 per cent of single yellow lines to double. This is the equivalent of 1,191 spaces that were originally free in evenings and weekends completely disappearing. And doesn’t it seem even sneakier that the council dropped in the news just before the Christmas break like that, when everybody was too busy to notice?
Boris for one is not impressed. He told the Standard yesterday: “This is a deeply cynical move and an appalling breach of faith. Small businesses, churchgoers, actors, and thousands of decent Londoners rely on the West End for their livelihood and we all rely on them to maintain the economic vitality of our great city.
“I urge Westminster to pause and think about the consequences of their increasingly reckless decisions. And I’ve asked GLA economics, informed by TfL, to start an immediate assessment of the impact of this move.”
Westminster Council claim that by removing single yellows they are helping pedestrians cross more safely at junctions, helping drivers drop off passengers, and helping emergency vehicles access wherever they need.
Helpful indeed, right?
Let’s hope the diverse and loud cacophony of voices speaking out against these depressingly damaging slights against West End businesses manage to quash the council’s such short-sightedness once again.