Boris Johnson: No West End charge until after Olympics

A pub in the West End of London
Image caption Owners of firms in the West End said the charges would lead to a "downward spiral" in business

Boris Johnson has said plans to introduce night-time and weekend parking charges in London's West End have been postponed until after the Olympic Games.

The mayor revealed Colin Barrow, leader of Westminster Council, had decided extra charges should be delayed until "beyond the Olympics at the least".

The move comes after a legal victory for campaigners battling the charges.

Labour says the plan should be dropped altogether.

The levy, from £2.20 to £4.40 an hour, was due to be introduced on 9 January.

'Risk of damage'

It was to operate until midnight Monday to Saturday, and from 13:00 to 18:00 on Sundays.

Westminster Council acted after a High Court judge decided to allow a judicial review into the plans.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Collins wrote: "The consultation [carried out by Westminster Council] was arguably far too limited.

"There is a real risk of substantial damage to businesses and churches if it goes ahead."

Speaking to the BBC, the mayor of London said: "It is very important that the West End should be confident and that businesses should not have any extra burdens."

The council has said it is introducing the charge to keep the streets "clean, safe and vibrant" - but campaigners have accused it of a money-making scam.

At first the authority would not confirm Mr Johnson's announcement.

But later it confirmed the delay, saying it did not wish the public debate to "become a distraction to preparations for the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics".

Labour mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone said: "Westminster Council should drop rather than delay its plans."

Westminster Labour's leader Paul Dimoldenberg added: "Over 95% of people are opposed to this damaging parking proposal and the council should now have the common sense to stop before it does any further damage.

'State of limbo'

"Those councillors responsible should seriously ask themselves whether they are the right people to lead the council into the future."

The council has already delayed the introduction once - the charges were due to start on 1 December.

The Heart of London Business Alliance, which represents 500 businesses including hotels, theatres and restaurants in the Piccadilly, Leicester Square and St James's areas, also called for the charges to be cancelled completely.

Chief executive Sarah Porter said: "Postponing the implementation of the new parking charges until after the 2012 Games is a welcome step in the right direction.

"However the charges should not be introduced at all.

"Until the charges are ruled out completely businesses will be in a state of limbo and will not be able to properly plan for the future."

A recent study commissioned by West Ending Campaign - West End businesses against the charge - said if the levy was introduced it could drive customers away, costing firms £714m a year.

The Conservative-run council said the report was flawed as it assumed that 20-25% of the "night-time population" travelled by car.

Councillor Barrow said: "We are a council that abides by the law so we recognise the significance of this judgement.

"The judge rejected 10 of the 12 grounds for judicial review submitted by the applicants, but it does also require us to postpone implementation of the scheme, pending the full hearing.

"We are confident that we will be successful at such a hearing on the strengths of our arguments, the comprehensive consultation and the need to make central London less congested."

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