Parking Relief for Residents?

Westfield offers shoppers two hours' free parking from April

Westfield are offering shoppers two hours of free parking in the shopping centre's car park for the next three months to encourage more people to visit, the company says.

"Westfield London is launching the Two Hours to Play campaign to encourage people to take time out, relax, socialise and discover the great shopping and dining experiences," said Westfield London's General Manager, Paul Buttigieg.

The move comes after Kensington and Chelsea announced 5,000 pay and display parking bays in their borough would be free every Saturday in April, to help local businesses which have been hit hard by the economic downturn and by competition from Westfield. If the RBK&C scheme is a success it could be repeated in future months.

Residents who live near Westfield have consistently complained about being unable to park in front of their homes since the centre opened last October, as shoppers and staff take the cheaper and easier option of parking in the streets rather than in the Westfield car park.

Those living in neighbouring streets say the parking situation has become a nightmare, with cars continually coming and going in front of their houses and car doors slamming all day long. In addition, one forum-writer says she knows a number of people who are reluctant to visit the shopping centre because of the high parking fees in the car park and because there is no free parking for disabled drivers.

Vivienne James, who lives near the shopping centre, says she does not believe the announcement of free parking at Westfield is in response to residents' concerns: “I think it is in response to the drop in numbers of visitors and they need to use all methods to entice people in to the centre to part with their cash,” she said.

“Westfield does not charge dramatically more than H&F for parking. I think shoppers just want the most direct route into the place and use the road for that reason. And friends of mine tell me that in the car park in the centre it is difficult to know where you are in respect of the shops that you want to visit. It is huge after all.”

Westfield parking currently costs £2.00 for up to one hour, while pay-and-display bays in the street cost 90p for 30 minutes. The bays are only kept exclusively for residents’ use for an hour and a half on weekday evenings and for three-and-a-half hours on Saturdays and Sundays. Local residents are demanding residents' only parking during Westfield's opening hours.

The results of a recent consultation on the impact of Westfield parking on the local area are yet to be published.

Yasmine Estaphanos

27 March 2009