West End parking free after Olympics slump in shoppers

Parking charges are being waived this weekend and next in Westminster to try to boost business and encourage visitors to London's West End.

Shops in central London saw a sharp drop in visitors at the start of the Olympic Games.

On the first Saturday of the Games footfall levels in central London were down 11.7% on the previous year.

Drivers usually have to pay to park in metered bays on Monday to Saturday before 18:30 BST.

Tempting people

Retailers believe that the lull in business at the start of the Games was down to people heeding warnings to avoid busy transport hubs.

Data from research group Experian showed footfall levels in central London declined at the outset of London 2012 but recovered later.

Councillor Philippa Roe, leader of Westminster City Council, said she hoped the free parking would "tempt" people to shops and attractions.

She said: "These two weekends fall between the close of the Olympic Games and the opening of the Paralympic games, and there will be lots going on in the West End and a really vibrant atmosphere."

Free parking applies to paid for bays and single yellow lines.

Normal restrictions apply to double yellow lines, residents' bays and suspended areas.

Last year, the council proposed charging up to £4.40 per hour until midnight, Monday-to-Saturday and on Sunday afternoons.

The move provoked widespread opposition with protest groups claiming it was aimed at raising revenue and not cutting congestion.

The plan was dropped in January.

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