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Chingford businesses say shoppers will be deterred by confusing and inefficient parking rules
Businesses in Chingford are angry at changes to the council’s parking system – saying it will damage trade on the high street.
They claim having to pay for parking by mobile phone marginalises some shoppers and that when the current voucher system ends anyone not wishing to pay by phone will face such hassle acquiring a ticket that they will be deterred from visiting.
Vouchers currently used to pay for parking are being phased out at the end of the year, when drivers will have to either pay by mobile phone or visit one of three pay points on the high street to buy a ticket.
Francesca Fairs of Truly Scrumptious sweet shop said: “We’re not Westminster for god’s sake. We’re Station Road.”
She said the vouchers are easier for everyone, rather than the phone system which some find confusing.
The council currently allows 15 minutes of free parking along Station Road and nearby streets, after which drivers must either pay by phone, visit one of three existing pay points to buy a ticket or buy a parking voucher from one of many shops.
Chingford and Woodford Green MP Iain Duncan Smith admitted he found phone payment confusing and pledged to support the businesses by writing to the council.
He said parking had wrongly become a revenue raiser for the authority, who should be investing in the community by making it easier for people to visit local shops and spend money.
“If we don’t do something about it here the businesses will die,” he said.
“It’s getting more and more difficult for people to shop here and we should be making it easier.
“If this street prospers, the council prospers.”
He added that he would support a longer duration of free parking, suggesting extending it from 15 minutes to one hour.
Aleta Huggins at The London Cake Company said small businesses should be left alone by the council in order to thrive.
“They’re killing the high street. What happens if your phone runs out of credit? Not all people carry phones around.”
The council says it wants to increase the number of pay points and that traders can sell parking tickets from their shops, similar to the current voucher system.
But it would be the traders' responsibility to acquire the PayPoint terminal needed to sell tickets.
The council also says misinformation is adding to residents’ frustration over parking.
A spokesman said it is not true that either a phone or credit card are needed to pay for parking, and that when vouchers are phased out at the year’s end there will still be the same opportunity to pay for parking in a shop.
Drivers will then not need to return to their vehicle to display a ticket, as the system registers the payment electronically.
The spokesman added that the 15 minutes of free parking has had a positive effect.
Councillor Clyde Loakes, Cabinet Member for Environment, said: “I remain unconvinced that extending that period is not going to lead to parking bays becoming clogged and limit the turnover of short-term shoppers on our high streets.”
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