Traders plea to parking chiefs in Brent to show some Christmas spirit

Businesses claim shoppers are being driven away by crucifying parking charges

Brent Council have been called upon to ease “crucifying” parking charges which have blighted Brent’s high streets this year by introducing a free half hour in the run up to Christmas.

Business owners including in Preston Road and Bridge Road in Wembley have complained bitterly of empty streets and a lack of customers since parking charges were increased in January this year.

Residents now have to pay �6 for two hours, �2.40 for an hour or 60p for 20 minutes, making parking more expensive than affluent areas including St John’s Wood.

With just a week to go until Christmas,Jane Hantman, of Hantman’s Optometrists, in Preston Road, said the charges had driven shoppers away.

She told the Times: “When people do shop they are clock watching because of their parking tickets.

“The sense of community is disappearing; nobody has time to talk to each other.”

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Cllr Daniel Brown, the Liberal Democrats’ transport spokesman, has written to Cllr Jim Moher (Lab), Brent’s lead member for highways and transportation, asking him for a trial of 30 minutes free parking in the run up to Christmas claiming the charges were “squeezing money out of residents”.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson (Con) has also previosuly backed the calls for half an hours free parking.

An hours free parking was introduced at Preston Road car park earlier this year but residents and shopkeepers claim it is too far for some residents, particularly the elderly, to benefit from it.

Mamos Bharania, manager of Rushton Pharmacy in Preston Road, called the situation a “disaster.”

He said: “It has crucified the town. We have seen at least a 30 per cent drop in business.

“The traffic wardens are over-zealous. We often have elderly patients waiting for medication and if they miss their parking time by a few minutes they are fined.”

Johnathan Taylor, owner of the grocery shop All Seasons, said: “Our shoppers are going to the supermarkets instead and all our passing trade is gone.”

Cllr Moher told the Times they looked at the idea for free Christmas, but found it “unlikely to work in practice.” He said: “Ealing tried it last year, but it didn’t help local traders, as they simply parked up there and tubed it into town or to Brent Cross.

“That is why they are not doing it again, nor are we drawn to such a gimmicky scheme. What happens after Christmas?

“Instead, we will be bringing proposals to the Executive in January which will deal with the parking factor and other town centre issues on a serious basis.”