SHOPKEEPERS have warned scrapping free parking and standardising parking charges across the borough could "sound a death-knell" for local businesses.
Harrow Council's cabinet committee will vote on Tuesday whether to adopt a "fairer and simpler" pricing policy that includes replacing the 15 different on-street parking charges with four zonal rates and introducing cashless parking meters - with a small levy of under 20p per transaction to cover running costs - doctor's permits and a flat fee for visitor permits among other initiatives.
Adrian Mutti, acting chairman of Hatch End Trade Association, said: "Our free car park is a lifeline and charges would sound a death-knell for business - the school-run mums use it, the nursery mums use it, the Brownies, Clubs and Scouts mums use it.
"We have always argued if charges are to be introduced, they have to be at a level that helps our businesses, not hinders them.
"People can choose to go elsewhere to shop and given our proximity to facilities and shops, Harrow Council will use the car park as an opportunity to make money."
Headstone North ward councillor James Bond (Independent) said: "I'm not opposed in principle to cashless payment or standardised charges but North Harrow is the most deprived shopping district in the borough - it's struggling - so anything that upsets the delicate balance by removing the free hour's parking, especially in the current climate, would be opposed by all the traders and probably a lot of the residents, and local councillors."
Other proposed measures in the new policy are:
- introducing charging at the free public car parks
- creating doctor's parking permits, limited to two per GP surgery where those businesses lie in a controlled parking zone
- changing the elibigility criteria for having an on-street private disabled parking bay
- bringing in a cheaper business parking permit for those using more eco-friendly vehicles
The cabinet committee is being urged to drop suggestions of adjusting the cost of residents-only parking permits to reflect each vehicle's emissions and introducing peak-time parking tariffs to encourage greater use of car parks at quieter periods.
What the aforementioned specific charges for permits and on- and off-street parking may be will not be outlined until the Labour administration's draft 2012/13 budget is published in December.
Councillor Phillip O’Dell (Labour), portfolio holder for environment and community safety, said: “These proposals are about setting fair and simple parking charges across Harrow that support traders in our town and district centres.
“The new system will be clearer for motorists too with the introduction of credit or debit card payments making it quicker and more convenient for people to park in Harrow.
"The introduction of parking ‘holidays’ with free parking around planned events is another way we can help local traders by loosening controls at the right times."
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