FREE parking at council car parks in Wealdstone and North Harrow is to be scrapped - a move hard-up store owners see as an attack on their trades.
Up until now, motorists have not had to pay to leave their vehicles for an hour at the 257-space Peel House multi-storey car park in Peel Road, Wealdstone, or North Harrow car park in Cambridge Road, North Harrow.
But drivers will soon have to pay 50p for an hour's parking, or 30p or 40p at North Harrow, as part of a 'quick win' revenue-raising scheme designed to plug gaps in Harrow Council's budget.
The change in Wealdstone will come into force in July or August once the council hascompleted roadworks in the High Street to open up the road to general traffic. There will also be more on-street parking introduced to boost flagging custom, though this will not be free either.
Brenda Harvey, chairwoman of Wealdstone Active Community, a residents' and traders' group, said: "This is not going to go down well at all. We feel that it's too soon to have anything like the first hour free parking taken away, because the roadworks are not finished yet.
"I hope it wouldn't discourage people to go but it certainly wouldn't encourage people to come. There's all sorts of places you go and not have to pay.
"Wealdstone's that sort of town where you want to go into a range of shops and not be here for a full hour.
"We recognise the council's financial problem, but we say that this would only raise a small amount, compared to other things that are going on, and I think this could have waited a while."
Wealdstone ward councillor Philip O'Dell (Labour) said: "We feel it's a bit of a kick in the teeth for businesses in Wealdstone, when they were promised help from the council.
"All right, they have opened up the road but they're taking away something which may result in a loss of business. And the Conservative party is meant to be the party of small business.
"We [Labour] originally brought in the concessionary parking in 2004 because we had representations from traders, saying they needed help to generate more custom, which it has."
Councillor Susan Hall (Conservative), portfolio holder for environmental services, said: "The [Peel House] concession was given in the first place because Labour closed two surface-level car parks, which was the worst thing for traders.