Beleaguered high-street retailers fear that a new proposal from Transport for London to charge motorists for parking in red route loading bays may herald the end for many small businesses.
These routes forbid any stopping or parking, except where an exemption - introduced to meet the concerns of local shopkeepers and businesses - allows motorists to park, free of charge, for 20 minutes in designated bays between 10am-and 4pm.
However, alarm bells rang when, in response to the Comprehensive Spending Review, London Mayor Boris Johnson suggested charges for such parking could be used to raise revenue.
Paul Pearson, whose website campaigns against unfair parking levies, warns that the proposal may breach the 1984 Road Traffic Regulation Act, which forbids local authorities from introducing parking charges specifically to raise revenue. He fears that many traders will go out of business as shoppers increasingly turn to large out-of-town retailers.
Along Camberwell Church Street in Southwark, many shopkeepers shared his concern. At Camberwell Superstore, which runs a successful hardware store alongside general groceries, store manager Vara complained that shopkeepers have already been hit with rising rates. “If now people are charged for parking outside our shop, business will go down and it will be very difficult for us to cope,” he told us. Across the road, at S+S Electronics, a TV repair shop, Sanjeev worried that no-one would be bothered with the hassle of bringing in heavy old televisions if they could not park freely - he believes they’ll just go elsewhere. Steve, a butcher, had just dropped off a delivery to a local restaurant: “It’s ridiculous. The only winners here are going to be the big out-of-town supermarkets”, he complained.
However, a spokesperson for TfL warns against being unduly alarmist and stressed that, although TfL believes it has the powers to charge for parking, “the proposals are at a very early stage and we will be consulting with all the boroughs and key stakeholders before any action is taken. We will ensure that proposals include full consideration of any potential impacts on businesses and residents. Further details will be announced in due course.”
By Cat Wiener