A number of angered West End performers have added weight to a petition against Westminster Council's proposed plans to introduce parking charges of up to £4.80 an hour on evenings and Sundays.
The petition is to be delivered to the council on 2nd November. Although Tory Councillor Lee Rowley states that the proposed changes "affect only around a quarter of Westminster" and that "the decision the council has made balances the views of residents, businesses and visitors", those signing the petition beg to differ.
Parking meters in central London are notoriously high priced, with car park charges even worse. At the moment parking is free in most areas after 6.30pm and on Sundays, making it a little easier, though still a little tricky, for theatregoers to arrange their theatre trip. Loose Women panellist and Oxo mum Lynda Bellingham who starred in the Savoy Theatre's Calendar Girls prior to its national tour summarises the petitioners' concerns. "Of course councils need money but they also need communities and entertainment. Please reconsider these parking issues not just for safety and convenience reasons but for the good of our wonderful city. The West End is a huge draw to tourists not just from abroad but within the UK. Let us encourage families and older citizens to our theatres and galleries and make the cost at least a little less and also the worry of time and meters and fear of a ticket."
Actress and star of upcoming Arts Theatre production A British Subject Nichola McAuliffe is even more vivid in the petition. "Drunkenness and aggression on streets at night, endless road closures at weekends, dirty and dangerous public transport are enough for the West End theatres to combat. Don't add parking restrictions to the barriers you erect to keep audiences away."
A Fish Called Wanda and Hart To Hart actor Jeremy Child adds "Just a profiteering exercise by Westminster Council. It will make getting to work in The West End very difficult for Equity members, and particularly dangerous for female members returning home late at night. It will also damage the West End restaurant trade."
Judge John Deed star Jenny Seagrove who trod the boards in The Country Girl at the Apollo Theatre last winter states "I work as an actor in the West End, and increased parking rates will make it impossible financially for some of my colleagues to accept jobs in London." She continues "It is also another nail in the coffin of ever decreasing theatre attendance - another expense for the theatregoer to have to deal with. Please help us and don't implement these charges."
Other industry faces to add their name and thoughts to the petition include Roger Lloyd Pack, Diana Quick, Nickolas Grace, Bill Paterson, Tom Conti and Dame Janet Suzman. Whether their efforts have been able to affect the council's plans will become clearer after the 2nd November, but London Theatre Direct for one hopes that the petition is taken seriously.