'Save our shops': Hundreds of campaigners gather to protest Havering Council's car parking charges increase
PUBLISHED: 12:08 11 July 2019 | UPDATED: 12:45 11 July 2019
Councillors voted against reviewing the recent car parking charges increases despite a large protest by campaigners calling for the council to bring back 30 minutes of free parking.
From early June, fees were introduced starting from £1.50 in Hornchurch and Upminster.
Hundreds of residents gathered outside Havering's town hall on Wednesday, July 10 to protest against the council's decision to scrap 30 minutes of free parking in the two town centres.
The protest was led by councillors from the residents' groups who put forward a motion calling for an immediate assessment on the likely impact the parking charges will have on the vibrancy of the town centres.
Barry Ward, 53, from Upminster was one of the protesters.
He told the Recorder: "People are incensed.
"I'm strongly against the parking changes and the effect it's having on the safety of our community and the impact on our shops.
"A sensible course would be to have the first 30 minutes free.
"It manages the parking and allows the council to still get some income which it clearly needs."
Simon Ford is the owner of the barbers in Farnham Road, Harold Hill and runs the Havering Local Business support group.
He said: "It's not just about the barbers, it's about all of the businesses and that is why I'm here protesting today.
"The taking away of the 30 minutes free parking is absolutely destroying local businesses.
"We don't expect free parking but we expect them to be reasonable. Forty-five minutes of free parking is an adequate time for people to pop into Greggs."
The protesters could be heard loudly chanting "save our shops" outside the town hall when Havering Council's full meeting began at 7.30pm.
Councillor Ray Morgon, leader of the Residents' Group, introduced the amendment which asked the administration to assess the impact of the parking charges increase.
Speaking about the Residents' Group alternative budget, he said: "The changes that the three main resident groups put forward were viable and we believe they would have had a positive affect on Hornchurch and Upminster.
"The plain fact is that the Conservatives had a choice but they chose not to take it.
"This Conservative administration is doing all it can to make it more difficult for our town centres and business by massively [increasing] the charges and getting rid of the 30 minutes free parking doesn't help."
He continued: "The leader seems to not understand the increasing rates and challenges businesses face, and as he sees this evening, there's a huge support for our campaign.
"Figures for Hornchurch's town centre already show a year on year decline.
"The question is have those risks been properly assessed alongside the potential impact?"
The parking changes were implemented as Havering Council proposed to invest £10million a year to improve roads and pavements as part of a £40million package over four years across the borough.
Cllr Morgon said he was not convinced residents were getting value for money where the administration's roads improvement investments were concerned.
Leader of the council, Cllr Damian White, responded by insisting that the residents' group's alternative budget was not viable.
"Unfortunately it was anything other than viable and it's misleading to say that front line services wouldn't have been impacted," said Cllr White.
"Had we accepted those amendments a whole host of community events would have been cancelled, not just Christmas but also the Remembrance Day Parade. High streets are more than just a collection of parking charges, they are living, breathing organisations that need our care, support and love.
We're investing some £40million in upgrading our high streets and roads to improve people's accessibility to the town centres, and we're investing £400,000 in our street cleaning programme."
The Residents' Group's motion was defeated, with 20 votes for and 28 against.