Pressure mounts on Westminster Council for parking charges U-turn

Pressure is mounting on Westminster Council to retract its controversial weekend and evening parking charges with the Mayor of London adding his voice to widespread concern about the plans.

Boris Johnson says he has “grave misgivings” about the charges and has asked officials to review their impact.

Meanwhile opposition Westminster Labour councillors have called for a special council meeting to debate the issue.

A petition signed by more than 8,000 people against the regulations was handed into Westminster last week and campaigners are planning legal action to apply to the High Court for a judicial review of the plans.

Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone has also come out against the charges while a number of MPs have signed an Early Day Motion expressing concern at the impact of the charges on night time workers.

Although the Mayor does not have the power to reverse Westminster’s decision, he says he has “made it clear to the borough, as forcibly as we can, that we are deeply uneasy about their proposals”.

“I have grave misgivings about the impact these charges may have on the night time and weekend economy,” he said.

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“They potentially discourage people from shopping, heading to the theatre or going to church in the area and I have heard a great deal of concern from people who may be affected.”

The regulations, due to come into force on January 9, will see parking controls imposed in parts of Marylebone and the West End on Sundays from 1pm to 6pm and from Monday to Saturday between 6.30pm and midnight.

Westminster Labour leader Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg has called for a special council meeting to scrap the charges. He said: “There’s an opportunity and possibility that some of the council on the Conservative side will see sense and listen to their constituents and businesses in the area.What is democracy if it’s not listening to what the people have to say?”

Earlier in the summer, the Churches Together in Westminster group confirmed it was consulting on proposals to send independent candidates to stand at the next elections in 2014.

Westminster leader Cllr Colin Barrow says he welcomes the Mayor’s review which he hopes will show the benefits of the scheme. “We never thought this was going to be popular, introducing charges for anything, particularly by a public body, for something previously free is never without its problems,” he said.

“But we are a serious council running a serious city. We have some difficult decisions to make, and this is one of them.”