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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 June, 2004, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
Pricey petrol for Chelsea drivers
Sloane Avenue
Expensive cars line Sloane Avenue in central London
A gleaming rank of Audis, Mercedes and BMWs stretches alongside the pavement, with the odd Porsche to excite sighs of envy.

This is Sloane Avenue in Chelsea, where a Total garage currently charges 99.9p per litre for normal unleaded - or 112.9p per litre for super unleaded.

The petrol station has no rivals on this leafy street, extending from the boutiques of Sloane Square to a flagship Chanel store on Brompton Road.

But, asks BBC News Online, should drivers in fashionable central London have to pay more?

I was shocked to see how expensive everything is round here
Sarah Hughes, resident

As petrol prices rise in the wake of pressure on oil production and Chancellor Gordon Brown plans a fuel duty rise of almost 2p per litre from September, the situation may get worse before it improves.

Nationwide, the average price could approach the 85.32p per litre mark that triggered the fuel protests of September 2000.

Meanwhile in Sloane Avenue, even those filling up with the traditionally-cheaper diesel on Wednesday found it cost 96.9p per litre.

To the well dressed passers-by, the fact Chelsea houses some of the UK's pricier fuel pumps comes with the territory.

Sarah Hughes, 32, a receptionist living in Old Brompton Road, said: "I'm not really surprised it is so expensive in Chelsea because I recently moved here from Kent and I was shocked to see how expensive everything is round here.

Fuel pump at Total garage in Sloane Avenue
A litre of super unleaded sets drivers back well over a pound

"Even a packet of pasta is five times as much as you would pay elsewhere."

The petrol station looks slightly incongruous on a street which is home to designer stores like The Conran Shop, Kenzo, Joseph and Paul Smith.

But of course the drivers of stately Bentleys and Rolls-Royce cars visiting the specialist Chelsea Workshop just round the corner will need gallons of fuel.

And even the streetwise Mini Coopers parked in shining rows at Sloane Avenue's Paradise Garage will have to fill up occasionally.

HAVE YOUR SAY
In the Isle of Man, you can't get petrol for under about 92p per litre now!
Evan, UK

Price 'ridiculous'

Mika Provata, 33, strolling down the street with a pram, said people suffered because there were only three or four petrol stations in the whole area.

"It's ridiculous because, especially in a residential area, people should be able to have access to decently priced fuel," she said.

"We shouldn't have to go outside London to the M25 or Circular roads to get to normal prices.

"But I think most of this area is over-priced - that's the abomination of it."

Beth Forfang
Beth Forfang: A protest at fuel prices 'would be justified'

Barrister Andrew Dowden, 44, from Pimlico, agreed high land prices in the area contributed to the problem - but said steeper fuel prices would not deter motorists.

Mother and businesswoman Beth Forfang, 41, from Primrose Hill, said: "I think fuel prices are extremely high.

"My fear is that travel and everything else will get much more expensive."

She said the UK government would be wrong to provoke public anger at the situation by increasing duty on fuel.

"I think a protest would be justified - I won't be marching but it probably would be justified," she said.

A spokesman for Total said they supplied fuel wholesale to an independent retailer at the Chelsea Cloisters garage in Sloane Avenue but had no say on how it was priced.

"In setting their price, the retailer has to take into account their local market conditions and the costs associated to their business," he said.




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