Film crew bring car row to boil

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Indy Lifestyle Online
A long-running dispute over parking restrictions in one of London's most picturesque villages has come to a head after the transformation of the main shopping parade into a television backdrop.

Belsize village shopkeepers are furious after losing a day's trade on Monday when Camden council coned off their shopping street to make way for a BBC film crew.

It has inflamed feelings over a trial traffic scheme introduced six months ago to stop side streets being used as a free-for-all car park. Traders say the scheme, which requires residents and traders to buy an pounds 82 parking permit, has killed off business.

'They have cut the village off from the commercial centre, said Jim Bowen, owner of the Village Pharmacy and chairman of the Belsize Residents and Traders Association.

Commuters have also been barred from dashing from one side of the village to the other via a small road known as Belsize Terrace.

The idea of the scheme was to create a 'piazza-like atmosphere. But far from seducing shoppers, the zone has driven them out, say the traders. 'The traffic in surrounding roads has become too heavy to negotiate. Local residents are buying their goods elsewhere, Mr Bowen said.

Mario Arricale, owner of an Italian restaurant, supported the scheme when it was introduced. He envisioned a fountain- and tree-filled piazza and thriving trade from passers-by.

Instead his clientele has deserted him and the 'piazza is little more than a 'graffiti-filled car park. Camden council 'didn't do their homework, he says, and traders are suffering.

Mr Arricale threatened not to pay his rates. The bailiff was sent round. 'I decided it was better just to look after my business and make the best of the situation. There was no point in protesting further. Nobody listens, he said.

Mr Bowen's shop is just doors away. On Monday he watched customers struggling with parking and wondered admiringly at their persistance.

In the end his irritation got the better of him. He went outside and asked a BBC cameraman why the road was shut off from early morning when the filming didn't get moving until 9.30pm. 'I'm just the cameraman, was the response.

Mr Bowen says a petition he signed with 2,000 others objecting to the trial traffic scheme has been ignored by the Camden council.

But Camden says more than 10,000 letters have been sent out canvassing the views of residents and business people on the scheme. The consultation covers the area from Belsize Park and Belsize Avenue south to Adelaide Road, and from Swiss Cottage eastwards to Haverstock. It also includes an area to the east of Haverstock Hill and the Mansfield Road conservation area.

Camden council expects the changes to be as 'popular and 'successful as the Hampstead parking controls have been. If residents vote to continue the scheme, the measures will 'reclaim the streets for local people and drive out the commuter cars that clutter up the roads near Belsize Park and Swiss Cottage station.

(Photograph omitted)