Westminster council abandons parking plan


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Indy Politics

One of Britain's biggest councils is to scrap controversial proposed parking charges, it said today.

Colin Barrow, outgoing leader of Westminster City Council, will ask chief executive Mike More to prepare a report to rescind the proposed evening and weekend charges, a spokesman said.

Mr Barrow announced last week that he was quitting his post, insisting the decision had nothing to do with his failed plans to introduce the charges to the capital's West End.

The plans for evening and Sunday charges had been on hold until after the Olympics - but will now be scrapped.

Mr Barrow said: "We have listened to Londoners in the interests of the wider economy and will scrap the charging plans.

"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.

"I also felt after reflecting on this issue, that it was right to act swiftly rather than wait for the election of a new council leader in order to provide clarity for the future."

Westminster's cabinet will also ask the chief executive to bring forward proposals to establish a commission to consider the most effective way the council can support business, lessen congestion and improve the quality of life of residents living in the West End.

Lee Rowley, cabinet member for transportation and parking, said: "We will think radically about how we manage traffic in the West End in the future. Our commission will consider all credible strategies for managing traffic and we'll reset our parking policies to focus on common sense measures that are fair but encourage people to keep to the rules."

The proposed move, which would have meant motorists had to pay in areas where it was previously free, was strongly opposed by businesses, churchgoers and volunteers.

Last year a High Court judge ordered the council to put the plans on hold, saying there was a risk they would "damage businesses and churches".

West End actors including Tom Conti, Lynda Bellingham, Bill Paterson and Roger Lloyd Pack signed a petition against the plans to introduce charges of up to £4.80 an hour.

London mayor Boris Johnson called the plans a "nightlife tax" and later hailed the postponement as "wise and brave" and the "right decision for Londoners".

Mr Barrow, who is 60 this year, will stand down at the annual budget meeting on March 7 and is to be replaced by a new leader elected by the majority party.

He said last week it would be "too easy" for people to attribute his decision to quit to the parking row.

"There is never a right or easy time to depart, and it is inevitable that people will ascribe my decision to the parking controversy," he said.

"To the contrary, part of my reasoning for deferring this announcement until now was because I was determined to see that through. It would have been only too easy to leave that one for my successor."