Free parking in Mayfair is an anti-social illusion

By Ron Whelan

A very narrow street in Mayfair.

Don't park here. Mayfair's streets will have double yellow lines painted on the corners. "...free parking for visitors leads to anti-social consequences for the area..."

Using a vehicle in Mayfair, or bringing one into the area, by definition creates a cost to the local community. This cost is partly environmental, through the added pollution and congestion created, and partly economic, through the added costs for highway maintenance. The existence of these costs is undeniable. The question is who should pay them. Currently, Westminster Council is attempting to get visitors to West End areas like Mayfair, who bring in their cars, to pay an increased share of these costs. This attempt is widely welcomed by local residents, who are footing the bill for free parking for shoppers, late night drinkers, diners and gamblers.

This new policy has produced a torrent of high-profile objections, virtually none of which comes from the local community — certainly in Mayfair at least. Even the Churches have joined In — notably St. Georges Hanover Square, but where again, the congregation by and large comes from outside Mayfair. What is extraordinary about the violence of this criticism is that it reveals a complete selfishness on the part of the local business interest, and a complete indifference to Mayfair as a community, and the needs of the people who live there.

The Mayfair Residents Group is dedicated to fighting to protect our area. One of the principal threats we are continually faced with is the social blight caused by excessive volumes of cars at nights and at the weekends. This blight is self evident. The question that one has yet to hear answered is “Why should someone be able to bring their car into Mayfair and expect to be able to park it for nothing?” The restaurant and the casino owners would have you believe that the proposed parking charges would drive them out of business. There is absolutely no evidence to support these hysterical claims.

The Council needs to explain far more effectively than it has done to date as to why free parking for visitors leads to anti-social consequences for the area, and why the whole community will benefit from these parking charges in the longer run. In other words, it must take control of events and stimulate a proper debate — something that has not yet happened. Such a debate should enable an agreement on an effective scale and implementation of the parking charges. Failure to achieve this will mean a victory for selfishness. It will also be another nail in the coffin for the future of Mayfair as a community.

Ron Whelan is Chairman of the Mayfair Residents Group.

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