The British Hospitality Association (BHA) has criticised plans by Westminster City Council to extend car parking charges until midnight from Monday to Saturday and from 1pm to 6pm on Sundays.
In a bid to stop congestion, the council is to scrap free evening parking, which currently applies from 6.30pm onwards, banning drivers from leaving cars on single yellow lines.
The measures, which will be introduced on an experimental basis for a period of up to 18 months as of December, will also include permanent controls north of Oxford Street.
However, the BHA has condemned the proposal, saying it would have a major impact on trade.
The Earl of Bradford (pictured), proprietor of Porters English Restaurant and Covent Garden Grill and chairman of the BHA's Restaurant Association, told Caterersearch.com that the move would deter people from travelling into the West End and have an "enormous effect" on restaurants and other businesses.
"They have clearly taken leave of their senses. This is simply mad and all the businesses in the area - restaurants, shops, hotels and theatres - will be affected," he warned. "You only have to walk around the area in the evenings to see the huge number of cars parked on yellow lines. This will only make London such an unfriendly place to visit, with people having their evenings ruined by these regulations."
However, Westminster Council has defended its plans, saying the new measures followed 12 months of research, adding that the controls would apply to a small part of central London only, meaning people would still be able to park for free five to 10 minutes' walk away.
Councillor Lee Rowley, Westminster Council's cabinet member for parking, said: "While I recognise that parking controls are not popular, research shows that in some parts of the West End it is now more difficult to park on a Sunday and on weekday evenings than it is during the working week.
"These new policies will mean our residents will be able to park near their homes, businesses can continue to deliver goods, and visitors can have a realistic expectation that they will be able to park when coming into the city."
By Kerstin Kühn
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