TRADERS fear that higher parking charges for anyone without a HillingdonFirst card will drive shoppers away from Northwood.
Since Monday, motorists who live outside the area have had to pay almost 25 per cent more to park, whereas residents of the borough of Hillingdon are paying the same rates as before.
Last October, the Gazette reported that people living in Eastbury - the Three Rivers Council part of Northwood - feel that the card scheme, which offers discounts only to Hillingdon residents, is unfair, because it forces them to pay more to use facilities in their own town.
The recent rise in parking charges has left many shopkeepers worried that customers will turn their back on Northwood in favour of other shopping areas, such as Rickmansworth, where they can park for free for two hours. Some say this may even result in the closure of long-established stores.
Barry Brennan, owner of Space Haircuts in Green Lane, said: "Many shoppers come from outside Hillingdon and I am concerned the increased parking charges will discourage them.
"The fact that we have traffic wardens on every corner is even less incentive for people to visit the area.
"Some of the traders in Green Lane recently had a meeting with the council about this but they don't seem to have any answers. Two hours of free parking here could be a solution."
Trevor Taylor, co-owner of Taylor Made sandwich bar, also in Green Lane, said shoppers are being driven away not only by the cost of parking but also the general lack of spaces.
"I used to have three parking bays outside but this has been reduced to one, and now a lot of our early morning trade has slowed down," Mr Taylor said.
"When my customers do eventually find a space, traffic wardens are waiting to pounce the second the ticket runs out. They seem to be on everyone's case.
"Two hours' free parking wouldn't be a solution for us as most of our customers are in and out within half an hour, but obviously if people were visiting one shop then they might be more likely to visit others."
Chairman of Northwood Residents' Association, Tony Ellis, added: "People are not
going to come to Northwood when they can get two hours' free parking in Rickmansworth - they will just turn around.
"Councillor Ray Puddifoot [leader of Hillingdon Council] says he is putting residents first in his election campaign but he is totally ignoring the interests of shopkeepers in Northwood.
"The increased charges mean people will think twice about coming here and as we are in a recession, I fear this could result in some shops closing."
A Hillingdon Council spokesperson said: "Hillingdon has some of the lowest parking rates in London and we will ensure parking charges for nonresidents remain comparable to those in neighbouring boroughs, which they do.
"We have already offered Three Rivers Council help and advice, should they wish to introduce such a scheme for their residents."
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