Shopkeepers fear parking charges will damage business

Shops in Victoria Park Village. Pic: Sophie Robinson-Tillett

A proposed pay and display scheme that contradicts Government guidelines may cause the death of shops in Victoria Park, traders say.

Hackney Council have put forward plans for tighter parking regulations around Victoria Park Village, home to an array of small, independent shops and eateries.

The proposal is a response to the increasing number of out-of-town commuters parking in the area to avoid the congestion charge.

However, local business owners are extremely concerned. Joanna de Guia, chair of the Victoria Park Traders’ and Residents’ Association told Eastlondonlines: “We understand the [parking] issue because we are almost all residents here too, but we stand to lose the custom of both the commuters and our other customers if this goes ahead.”

The plans have been implemented despite a Government report on sustaining independent businesses that was issued during the council review period and stated: ‘Local areas should implement free controlled parking schemes that work for their town centres.’

The report, produced by high street guru Mary Portas, named parking restrictions as one of the top ten problems for the survival of small shops. Despite this Hackney Council recommended the ‘implementation of parking controls’ in the south of the borough.

The Council states that ‘the net revenue surplus generated from 2012/13 onwards in estimated at £230,000’ for the scheme. However Portas says the appeal of additional revenue in times of budget cuts shouldn’t drive local authorities to overlook the fact that paid parking in commercial districts will “curtail… the long term economic viability and well being of an area.”

This is the worry of many traders in Victoria Park Village. Sarah Fraser-Steele, 38, owner of The Deli Downstairs on Victoria Park Road says that almost half of the area’s shoppers drive, and that Hackney Council must “consider this position before rashly imposing damaging controls in the area.”

Julia Cook, 43, owner of Branch on the Park jewellers and a resident of the area for nearly two decades said: “if the controlled parking zone  is introduced to Victoria park village it will have a dire effect on all of the shops and businesses… the area has taken many years to build up and fill with great independent shops, cafes, bars, restaurants; it could soon revert to its past of boarded up shops.”

De Guia, who also owns Victoria Park Books told ELL how serious the threat to their small businesses was: “if we lose any more customers we will start losing businesses now.”

Local authorities are not legally required to reject a controlled parking zone even if the majority of those consulted oppose the initiative, but Hackney Council have told ELL that they are in the process of analysing public feedback. A council spokesperson said: “The needs of all service users are considered when designing a parking scheme.”

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