The owner of a business that has traded in Walworth since the 1950s says new parking restrictions have left him struggling with the ‘stress and pain’ of having to fork out for hundreds of pounds worth of penalty fines – despite being an NHS supplier.
Mark Lynne, who runs Walworth Road’s Lynne’s Electrics, has been left with multiple £65 fines for using a loading bay right outside his shop after the council announced it was suspending all parking bays to help with social distancing during the pandemic.
Over the last few months traders have been given a limited window for deliveries, either overnight or in the early morning, as a temporary measure in response to the high COVID-19 rates in the borough.
But although the restrictions are meant to only be in force until July 31 (this Friday), the News has been told by a well-placed source that this is very likely to be extended despite public reassurances to business owners. Even if promises are kept, Mark says the damage has already been done to his business. He believes longer lasting measures that have seen Walworth’s side streets closed to traffic will continue to leave traders like him struggling.
As the News has reported, Walworth has now been designated a ‘low emission neighbourhood’ with side streets closed to traffic to help encourage safer walking and cycling. The move has been loved and loathed by a community left divided over the widespread changes.
Mark told the News: “In some cases the ticket I get costs as much as the goods being dropped off. It’s affected my company and the customers who come here including those who are disabled and need to park.
“Social distancing has changed from two metres down to one and it’s a 6ft pavement.
“The whole scheme is lovely if you’re a cyclist but it is not real life. I’m not against cycling lanes but what the council has imposed is disproportionate.
“I have been driving into the shop during lockdown to keep our emergency deliveries going and supplies to the NHS.
“In that time new cycle ways have taken up 50 per cent of the road, roads have been blocked off, and the traffic is just sent somewhere else or sits in gridlock on Walworth Road.
“And I’ve had the stress and pain of not being able to load up throughout the day. I cannot constantly be fighting to exist as a small business.
“We’re allowed to load up late at night and until 10am and after that we can’t do any emergency deliveries.”
The News has also seen a letter rejecting a challenge to a penalty charge notice from a disabled customer, who had a badge on display, which reads: “We have noted you are unable to carry heavy load, to which you also have a disabled badge supporting this. Although we sympathise, however, clear photographic evidence shows your vehicle parked to a sign that states the bay is suspended.”
Lynne’s Electrical has its own delivery van that can typically load up six or seven bulky items including washing machines and fridge freezers.
They have continued delivering goods to people in need of repairs or replacements during the pandemic.
“I’ve been advised those in favour of the new parking restrictions to use cargo bikes for deliveries,” Mark says, incredulously.
“How can you pedal seven large electrical items across south London as far as Croydon on a cargo bike and deliver them while keeping them safe and secure?”
Although Southwark Council was unable to respond to the News’ request for comment before going to press, this newspaper has seen correspondence from the cabinet member Richard Livingstone, who holds the transport and environment portfolio at Tooley Street, stressing the temporary parking bay measures were one of several ‘difficult decisions’ after Southwark recorded one of the highest Covid infection rates. In these emails he also confirms the restrictions will be lifted by Friday. The News has seen council correspondence claiming otherwise.
An initial decision to fully close the bays was amended in May to between 10am and 7pm after feedback and in light of peak shopping times being ‘highest risk’ to residents attempting to pass each other on the pavement.
As the News has reported, sweeping changes to road layouts elsewhere in Southwark – including closing Rye Lane to vehicles – have left traders furious.
This week, Vally Wilson, the owner of Peckham Park Road’s Rex Launderette, contacted the News to say that the shop was closing after 60 years trading, saying passing trade had halved since bollards were placed outside to stop cars from parking.
“We relied very much on customers who came from far areas bringing their washing loads in cars.
“Southwark council’s unjust traffic, parking and anti-car use policies is destroying many local and high street businesses, economy and jobs,” Vally told the News.
“It is complete myth that the real economy can be sustained by bicycles, busses or walking.
“I have been in retail trade for 40 years and can say that implementation of severe traffic policies has destroyed thousands of businesses across our 24-hour city.
“I am very grateful to thank all our loyal customers who have supported and used our launderette for many years.”