GREENWICH town centre now has the most expensive council-run car parks in the whole of south London, research by Greenwich.co.uk has found.
The council almost doubled charges in its three town centre car parks at Cutty Sark Gardens, Greenwich Park Row and Burney Street in 2011.
Visitors now pay a minimum of £2.50 an hour to park. Councils in neighbouring Bexley and Lewisham charge just £1.00 and £1.40 respectively.
Greenwich Council intends to raise its parking charges again to £2.70 an hour next year.
Use of Greenwich town centre car parks has dropped by around 40% as a result of the new charges, with just 13% of visitors now coming into town by car.
Visitors also spend far less than in other nearby town centres. A study by TfL found that people spend an average of just £20 per visit in Greenwich compared to £31 per visit to Woolwich, £33 per visit to Bexleyheath, £39 per visit to Bromley and £48 per visit to Croydon.
Just 26% of those surveyed say that they come to Greenwich to shop. This is lower than any of the other 14 London town centres in the study.
Our research found that it is now cheaper to park in parts of central London than Greenwich, with Southwark Council charging just £1.50 an hour for its car parks.
Only one other council-run car park has a higher hourly charge in South London. Buckner Road car park in Brixton has an hourly charge of £3. However, unlike Greenwich, visitors are able to pay to park for less than one hour, with prices starting at just 20p.
Research by the Conservative group on Greenwich Council found that the number of parking hours paid for in Greenwich town centre car parks dropped between 37 and 42 per cent since the charges were raised.
Meanwhile parking revenues have only increased by relatively modest amounts. In Greenwich Park Row car park, the council have increased takings by just 10% despite raising charges by over 90%.
Greenwich council admitted earlier this year that the new charges have raised less than half of the extra revenue they expected.
The Leader of the Conservative group on Greenwich Council Spencer Drury said today the cost of parking was hurting local businesses:
“Raising parking charges in Greenwich has clearly reduced the number of people travelling to the town centre by car. Many people I speak to are actively choosing to go elsewhere as a result of the expense of parking in Greenwich, for example with many watching films in Bluewater rather than the wonderful Picture House because it costs an extra £10 to park in Burney Street as opposed to nothing out of town.
"With the Olympics reducing car visits still further, the Council must not put charges up any more in 2013, as I think any potential gains in revenue from parking will be lost with lower business rates as shops lie empty."
The latest census showed that car ownership has dramatically dropped in London over the past ten years, with many more people now using public transport.
However, TfL found that fewer people use the bus to visit Greenwich than all but one other London town centre, with visitors highlighting “less traffic” as the main priority for improvement in the area.
The council today defended the increased charges, saying that they “compare very reasonably with other key destinations in London.”
A spokesperson told Greenwich.co.uk:
“Greenwich Town Centre is in a World Heritage Site and is one of London's biggest tourist destinations. We therefore have to very carefully manage parking within the town centre and part of this is to set charges accordingly. Parking charges within the town compare very reasonably with other key destinations in London.
"The town centre also benefits from excellent public transport links - DLR, rail, river and bus access, which we would encourage residents and visitors to use to travel to our renowned shops and attractions.”
Asked whether they will proceed with plans to raise charges again in April, the spokesperson said they would be “happy to review” the charges and “discuss the implications with traders.”