Hospitality operators in the West End have criticised plans by Westminster City Council to extend car parking charges until midnight from Monday to Saturday.

The council is considering scrapping free evening parking, which currently applies from 6.30pm onwards, banning drivers from leaving cars on single yellow lines. It is also considering increasing meter costs in some areas.

However, hospitality operators in the area have reacted angrily to the proposal, saying it would have a major impact on trade.

The British Hospitality Association (BHA) has written a letter to Westminster City Council on behalf of its members warning that the move would deter people from travelling into the West End and spending in its restaurants and other businesses.

Chief executive Bob Cotton said the BHA is “totally opposed to the plan, particularly at the present time when restaurants were still severely affected by the economic downturn”.

"This will damage jobs, investments and future prospects," he added.

"Even though the council needs to raise its revenues, increasing costs for the consumer in this way will damage the restaurant and retail industries at a very fragile time. This is not the way to go forward."

Kevin Goad, Westminster's Head of Commissioning for City Management, said: "A number of other local authorities in areas far less congested than ours already have extended parking controls, but we are listening to the views made by all those who would be affected and will consult fully on what are currently just proposals.

"It would be remiss for the council not to take into account the full impact of any potential changes to any of its policies. We constantly try to balance the competing interests of businesses, visitors, residents and motorists across the city, and our final decision will be made in a manner which is totally transparent and open to scrutiny."

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By Kerstin Kühn

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