Spring softens blow of new congestion charge

Garden retailers sanguine about boundary extension

By Matthew Appleby The sting has been taken out of the congestion charge’s extension into west London this month because of buoyant spring business, according to garden retailers. Earl’s Court-based Rassells manager Richard Hood said of the £8 a day charge, extended from central London on 1 March: “It’s the spring season and if we weren’t doing well anyway there would be something wrong. But there will be a negative impact. The best thing for us would be if the zone continued to expand and include all our customers. A lot of retailers are getting jumpy and saying they’re 30-40 per cent down but they need to look again in six or 12 months.” Hood added that a Homebase store in W14, just outside the zone, could be cashing in. Homebase could not confirm this. King’s Road-based World’s End Nurseries owner James Lotery said: “We can’t tell as a seasonal business. You could argue we get twice the customers at the weekend because there’s no charge then. As a business you get no reduction so it costs £300 a month per van — that’s money upfront so it has a major impact. But people will get used to paying it.” Chelsea Gardener assistant manager Andrew Kyte said: “We deliver each day but we don’t swallow the extra charges, customers do. We’re leaving it a couple of months to see how it goes.” Clifton Nurseries, just outside the zone in Maida Vale, said the charge may have been a factor in a 27 per cent rise in sales in March. But managing director Tad Paluchowski said a new Daylesford concession and increased marketing meant sales were also 25 per cent up on 2006 in February before the charge was extended.

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