Councillors join residents to fight South Woodford Sainsbury's parking charges
PUBLISHED: 15:00 17 June 2019 | UPDATED: 16:55 17 June 2019
Councillors have joined customers fighting a supermarket's decision to charge for parking.
Shoppers using the car park at Sainsbury's in George Lane, South Woodford, have been told they will have to spend at least £5 in store or pay a fee to park their cars.
The area currently has limited parking except for the Sainsbury's car park and the Tube station car parks at the far end of the road.
Suzanne Bennett, owner of Sid & Evie's in George Lane, set up a petition last month to fight against the new parking restrictions, which she says will add to the decline of an "already struggling" high street.
There was a grace period of 15 minutes before the charge would apply, but that has since been extended to 30 minutes thanks to pressure from local residents.
Before Sainsbury's extended the grace period, Mrs Bennett said: "This action is ill-conceived, with little regard for the impact on the local business community and will dramatically affect footfall on the ever declining high street. The elderly and infirm will be unfairly penalised when collecting prescriptions, attending medical appointments or picking up essential items."
Conservative ward councillors Suzanne Nolan and Michael Duffell are now fighting the decision on behalf of residents, worried about the impact on customers and other local businesses.
In a joint statement, the councillors said: "We understand that the land is privately owned by Sainsbury's, however these changes will have a dramatic impact on George Lane and surrounding areas.
"We have been working with local businesses, the public and Sainsbury's itself to find a way forward and are happy to see the 15-minute grace period raised to 30 minutes.
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"We hope that the council's highways teams will also look into this to see whether there are any other options which would be available to help support local businesses.
"It is in the public's, council's, local businesses' and Sainsbury's interest to see a thriving and dynamic George Lane - so hopefully we can find a solution which works for all parties."
Leader of Redbridge Council, Councillor Jas Athwal, visited residents and shop owners last week to discuss the issue.
"I understand people are concerned about parking restrictions in the Sainsbury's car park and myself and Cllr Beverley Brewer are working closely with council officers and with Sainsbury's to solve this problem," he said.
"So far we have agreed to create more parking bays in the high street and roll out the one-hour free parking Labour pledged to deliver at the last election."
Cllr Athwal said he is also in talks with Sainsbury's to have them match the one-hour free parking in order to give residents plenty of time to visit local shops and businesses.
He said: "I want to thank all the residents who took the time to get in touch with me and help resolve this issue - George Lane is a buzzing shopping centre and the more we can do to make it easier for small businesses and local people, the better."
A Sainsbury's spokesman said: "We've introduced parking charges at our South Woodford store which customers can redeem against their shop.
"We have made these updates to ensure our customers have better access to parking spaces when they need them."
The petition can be found here.