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New plans to drive commuter parkers away from Hilldene Shopping Centre have been recommended for approval.

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For the first time, visitors to the shopping centre in Harold Hill will have to pay to park and can stay up to a maximum of three hours.

Havering Council said it believes the plans will deter commuters from using the car park and preventing shoppers from parking.

But some members of the highways advisory committee said new plans will discourage shoppers from visiting the shops and drive them to nearby supermarkets instead.

The plans include: new resident and business permit parking and disabled parking bays; waiting restrictions; a new one-way system in East and West Dene Drives and new loading facilities to the back of shops in Hilldene Avenue, West Dene Drive and Chippenham Road.

Plans also include removing garages in East and West Dene Drives to create more parking. New charges will be 20p for up to two hours, and 50p for two to three hours – the maximum stay.

The council received two petitions, one of 286 signatures objecting to East and West Dene areas having permit parking, and the proposed one-way system.

The second had 1,110 signatures against the pay and display and parking permits changes.

Cllr Paul McGeary said during the meeting, on Tuesday, that he asked an officer at the public consultation how many spaces were affected by commuter parking.

He said: “He told me 50, but this included shop staff, people who live in the flats and commuters.

“This means that as few as 15 spaces could be affected of approximately 159. This does seem an over-reaction to solve a non-problem.”

Cllr Pat Murray said: “Given the current economic climate, to implement this scheme will bring disaster to this shopping area.”

Cllr Sandra Binion said: “We have had these put in in Collier Row and Harold Wood and it works there and is promoting their high streets.”

Cllr Brian Eagling said: “I have never had a problem when parking there. I can always get a space. It makes me wonder if this is about finance or is it about stopping commuters parking.

“A good solution would be to have a two-hour stop, and that would prevent commuters from parking.”

But Cllr Steven Kelly said it would be difficult to monitor this system with so many car parking spaces.”

The report was passed five votes to four. It will now go to the lead cabinet member for a final decision.

Tina Watts, from M&S Cards and Partyware, said after the meeting: “People come here because it’s free. They definitely don’t want to have to pay for parking.”

Mark Rising, from F&J Carling & Sons butchers, in Hilldene Avenue, said: “To keep everyone happy they should not charge for the first one or two hours.”

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