Drivers may have to pay to enter West End

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Radical plans to introduce tolls on some of London's busiest roads, tax workplace parking spaces and create car-free streets, have been drawn up by the borough of Camden.

The blueprint, which would affect routes from the West End and the City to the north, will soon be sent to the Government for approval. If the scheme gets a green light, planners will flesh out the proposals with detailed plans. The borough's transport planners could, they say, revive the London Boroughs Transport Scheme - which produced the capital's lorry ban - and co-ordinate its actions with other authorities.

A system of permits to exclude "non-essential" cars from certain areas is also being considered by councillors, together with plans to introduce a system of "loyalty cards" which would give shoppers special discounts if they used neighbourhood stores rather than taking the car out to drive to the nearest supermarket.

The council points out that traffic in the borough grows at 1 per cent a year and that "to tackle the dangers of a fume-filled borough, we are now proposing a new sustainable transport strategy".

Planners are also considering clearing Camden High Street of cars. The area is home to the fashionable market which is considered a major tourist attraction. However, the council's own computer model shows that the traffic displaced from the centre may just clog up other streets. "There could be an effect on traffic all the way up to St Albans in Hertfordshire," said Ian Plowright, a transport planner for Camden. "It is something we are very, very mindful about.

``We are well aware of the risks," said Deborah Sacks, vice-chair of the council's environment committee. "When Croydon tried to introduce restrictions on parking numbers, a major employer, Direct Line, threatened to decamp to Peterborough."

However, one easy method for planners to help companies understand the cost of car parking is to specify the amount of tax paid for each space. In a submission to the Department of Transport working group, local authorities claim that companies paid pounds 550 in Birmingham to park each car a year compared with pounds 150 in Norwich.

The borough, through which more than 500,000 cars drive every day, is proposing the measures to ease congestion and reduce pollution levels in the morning and evening rush hours. In 1995, levels of particulates, deadly tiny specks of dust, in Camden exceeded government health standards on 46 days.

Motoring organisations said there would be major problems in introducing the plan. "If you introduce charges in one area, you will find businesses and residents moving to another," said Edmund King, a spokesman for the RAC. "These proposals only work on a London-wide basis."