SHOPPERS and businesses are taking advantage of a new parking concession that allows motorists to park free of charge for 20 minutes.
The limited trial, which began in and around Rayners Lane district centre on Monday and runs until October 17, was approved in June by Harrow Council’s Independent Labour administration in a bid to boost trade.
It comes at a time when many councils are accused of using motorists as cash cows and Harrow Council confirmed to the Observer that should the concession be rolled out boroughwide in October, it would cost the authority £500,000 in lost annual income.
Normally, the charge is 40p for a 20-minute stay.
Driver Udayakanthan Thevathasan, a 29-year-old from Northolt, said: “I think it’s great. I came to Rayners Lane today to make a quick visit to the bank and we didn’t have to worry about paying for parking.
“I think it will bring more people to the area.”
The temporary free parking applies to on-street spaces only, and drivers must take a free ticket from the ticket machine to display in their car window and cannot get more than one every four hours to prevent abuse of the system.
Those staying longer will benefit from a 20-minute grace period and this will be reflected in a discounted tariff regardless of whether they pay by cash or by telephone.
Leader of Harrow Council, councillor Thaya Idaikkadar (Independent Labour), said: “Supporting our local businesses and district centres is a top priority for Harrow Council.
“We want to encourage residents to shop locally and attract trade for our local businesses from beyond our borough’s borders which is why we are trialling the 20 minutes free parking.
“It will allow drivers to carry out those quick everyday tasks such as picking up a few groceries, dropping your suits off at the dry cleaners, or stopping off to post a letter or parcel somewhere.”
The trial is going ahead despite scepticism from the two Conservative non-executive members on Harrow Council’s cabinet commmittee.
Conservative group leader Susan Hall said: “The concept of a period of free parking is wonderful one, and can be a real asset if done correctly, but equally it can be a disaster if it’s not done properly.
“As I made clear to Independent Labour at the cabinet meeting, my concern is that the scheme they’ve come up with is full of holes.
“The financial figures provided are questionable, and if it costs more than expected it’s our residents who end up footing the bill and with massive cuts planned for public realm and other services, we question if this scheme is the best way for money to be spent.”