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‘Lifeline’ of hour’s free parking near markets to be brought in next year

East London shoppers could be offered one hour’s free parking next to their favourite markets in a move to support local businesses in Tower Hamlets.

During a cabinet meeting on Wednesday evening (November 30), Tower Hamlets Council heard a motion that will allow East London residents free parking for one hour while they shop in the borough’s markets.

The council has confirmed that free parking for all but one market in Whitechapel is expected to go live on February 1, 2023.

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The proposal consists of creating 248 car parking spaces within 100 metres of the markets, so shoppers have one-hour free parking per day on market days. The council hopes the free parking will attract more customers into the area and will be a “lifeline” for small businesses.

It is also hoped the one-hour free parking will “support residents who are facing a cost-of-living crisis and rapidly rising household bills”.

Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman told the cabinet: “Again, this is another one of our commitments. Small businesses, high street shop-owners, stall holders – it’s a lifeline.

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“Helping those businesses is extremely important and I believe creating these 248 car parking facilities for shoppers for one hour maximum a day is our commitment, it’s our contribution for helping those small businesses.”

Free parking spaces were proposed for shoppers at the following markets on market days: Watney Street [19 spaces], Petticoat Lane [32 spaces], Brick Lane [56 spaces], Columbia Road [33 spaces], Bethnal Green Road [43 spaces], Roman Road Square [16 spaces], Roman Road [22 spaces], Chrisp Street [11 spaces] and Whitechapel Road [16 spaces].

Once residents park, they will be able to access free parking for one hour by booking it on their phone. Free parking for all but one market in Whitechapel, is expected to go live on February 1, 2023.

Introducing new parking bays to Whitechapel market requires a change to the traffic order, which will be part of a statutory consultation at a future date.

The council’s cashless parking income is expected to make a total loss of £150,000 per year.

Responding to the financial losses, the mayor told the room: “I strongly believe we will easily recoup that money as a borough because it will increase the footfall of those shops and those store-holders and stalls. I certainly recommend this and we should certainly do this – absolutely.”

It is estimated that an additional £10,000 will be spent on making multiple traffic management orders. During an equalities assessment, it was reported that imposing a one-hour free parking facility could have a negative impact on air quality because more drivers would be encouraged to use their cars to visit the markets.

It was also noted in the report that other businesses missing out on the initiative may want it to apply for their area too: “The provision of a one-hour free parking facility for all the markets across the borough may generate requests from other business areas who would feel that they too would benefit from this facility.”

The proposal is part of the mayor’s 2022 manifesto as part of pledges to support local businesses in the borough.

Introducing new parking bays to Whitechapel market requires a change to a traffic order, which will be part of a statutory consultation at a future date. 



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