‘Our high street is dying’: Harold Hill businesses fear that more shops could close unless the council increases amount of free parking
- Credit: Melissa Page
Thousands of people have signed a petition to extend the amount of time you can park for free in Harold Hill in a bid to save small businesses.
At the moment -like the rest of Havering - you can park for free for 30 minutes next to the shops, but councillors and shopkeepers think that this is leading to the closure of businesses, and if people could park for free for longer it could “save the high street.”
In the last few months a number of shops have closed in Farnham Road, and former councillor Philip Hyde said that the best way to solve this issue would be to increase the amount of free parking.
However the council has said without the charges it would have a negative impact on local businesses, as customers would be competing with other drivers and commuters who would occupy spaces all day or for lengthy periods.
Philip said: “Our petition was well reasoned at the time and fully justified.
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“Support from the local community in our quest to protect this important shopping facility, remembering that a significant elderly population depends on it, is overwhelming.
“Given the national trend of struggling high streets it would appear in the council’s interest to listen.
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“Both councillor Jan Sargent and I believe that several more retailers will have closed by year end, without action.
“As numerous outlets are already vacant any further closures will add to lower footfall and possibly the centers eventual demise.”
Dan Wallace, 53, owner of Flowergirl in Farnham Road has been at the shop for 27 years and said the parking is just the tip of the iceberg.
He said: “The biggest issue is the machines they’re driving us mad.
“By the time people can find a machine then they’ve been given a ticket.
“We’ve had a few people that said they cant come to the shop anymore as they can’t pay for parking.
“Those machines are useless.
“The people who do shop here are the older people, who come for a little bit of shopping but it doesn’t take them just half an hour to do it because they are elderly.”
The new Lidl store that opened in Gooshays Drive in May has also been cited as a reason why smaller businesses are struggling.
Dan said: “The families who come and do big shops go to places like the new Lidl - where the parking is free.
“It isn’t a fair playing field for us all.”
Kelly Stoneman, owner of Blades hairdressers, has been working in Harold Hill for 20 years, and said people are frightened to come shopping, because they are scared of getting a parking ticket because of “brutal” wardens.
She said: “They only need to get out of their car to find a machine and they are given a ticket, they are so red hot on people it’s scaring them away.
“It used to be a lovely shopping community around here, but not anymore.
“Parking is a massive issue, we have lost 50 per cent of our business because of it.
“It’s really hard here now.
“My business is going further and further down.
“The shops around here used to be like gold dust, they used to have huge waiting lists, but now there’s more and more empty shops.”
Another shop owner who wanted to remain anonymous said: “The businesses down here are being hit so hard.
“There’s not a business down here that isn’t suffering.
“Its down to the parking and the parking wardens, people get out of their cars to find a working machine and by the time they’ve got back they’ve been given a ticket.
“Once someone has been given a ticket they never come back.”
A Havering Council spokeswoman said: “Having parking charges in operation supports local shopping centres and other smaller shopping parades such as Hilldene, ensuring there is a regular turnover of spaces for visitors and shoppers.
“Without parking charges, customers would be competing with other drivers and commuters who would occupy spaces all day or for lengthy periods. This would have a negative impact on local businesses.
“The council has invested significantly in the upgrade of parking facilities for the Hilldene shopping area which has more than doubled the parking capacity.”