Westminster Council scraps controversial parking charges

Parking scheme is scrapped but opposition councillors claim it has already cost the council �1million

Westminster Council has scrapped its plans to introduce evening and weekend parking charges in parts of Marylebone and the West End.

The council’s u-turn, which was decided at a Westminster Conservative party meeting late last night (Wednesday), comes after a prolonged campaign from residents, businesses, councillors and politicians.

A High Court judge had already delayed the charges when he ruled they should not be implemented until after a judicial review.

Last weekend council leader Cllr Colin Barrow announced his resignation but said “I am not standing down because of parking at all”.

But speaking last night he said he felt the need to “act swiftly” rather than pass the issue over to his successor.

“We have listened to Londoners in the interests of the wider economy and will scrap the charging plans,” he said.

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“We need to think long and hard about how we manage traffic in the West End to allow people to go about their business, but it’s clear that these specific proposals did not command public support.”

Parking boss Cllr Lee Rowley confirmed the council will now “reset our parking policies to focus on common sense measures that are fair but encourage people to keep to the rules”.

The news was welcomed by business representatives, church leaders and opposition councillors.

Cities of London and Westminster MP Mark Field said: “This is a very positive move from Westminster.

“The council has listened hard at a difficult time and the message should go out loud and clear that the West End is open for business.”

However, Westminster Labour leader Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg says the failed parking scheme has cost the council �1million including �300,000 spent on street signs, hundreds of thousands of pounds on its consultation, and thousands on legal costs.

“It is unbelievable that the council took so long to listen to the overwhelming opposition to the charges and admit that they got it so very badly wrong,” he said.

“The council’s arrogance and belief that it could do just as it pleases has finally been exposed and defeated.”

But council chiefs dispute the figure and insist the cost of the failed charges is around �250,000.

Cllr Rowley said: “Westminster has spent approximately �600,000 on commissioning and implementing its parking policy review, but around only a third of that relates to the withdrawn changes to hours of control in the West End.”

He added: “Many aspects of this project are recyclable and so it could be that the true cost is even less that.”