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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 June, 2004, 15:45 GMT 16:45 UK
Charging round Chelsea
By Lucy Wilkins
BBC News Online

The shops and cafes along Chelsea's Kings Road are full as the traffic rumbles past on a typically busy Saturday afternoon.

Saturday traffic on Kings Road, Chelsea, London
Ken Livingstone hopes to reduce traffic in west London by extending the congestion charge
But this Saturday is different: Ken Livingstone has just been re-elected for a second term as mayor of London.

And with him comes the prospect of this wealthy west London borough being included in the congestion charge zone.

For South Kensington resident L. Fredericks an expanded congestion zone will "certainly be a disaster".

Loading her car with shopping in a leafy side-street off the Kings Road, she told BBC News Online that "the high streets in villages, i.e. Chelsea and Kensington, will actually die".

"It will be a terrible blight and I am completely against it."

As a resident within the zone, she will receive a 90% discount on the 5 daily charge - if the current terms remain.

"It won't have much effect on me, and where I live we haven't had problems with parking anyway - even around Harrods you can find a park."

The extended boundary would stop just short of Shepherd's Bush to the west, run as far north as Kensal Green Cemetery and down to Chelsea Embankment in the south, and it could be in place as early as 2006.

Maurice Osborne, flower seller on Kings Road, Chelsea, London
It's a good idea, but I think he was just testing the water by making the suggestion
Maurice Osborne
Kings Road flower seller
It is an issue close to residents' hearts, with two protest marches already held this year.

Congestion charging was introduced in February 2003 for people driving throughout an eight-square-mile zone of central London, and has reduced traffic and journey times but some businesses claim it has damaged trade.

Mrs Fredericks' view that Mr Livingstone will definitely introduce the charge is echoed by businesswoman Mandy Canham.

Living and working locally means she is not personally bothered by the charge, as when she does use her car it is after the 6.30pm cut-off time.

But she still thinks it is a bad idea.

Chelsea street, June 2004
Residents within the zone receive a discount

"This area will become a no-go area for parking and travelling," she said.

She predicted it could have a small impact on her cosmetic and toiletries business as most of her customers were residents or public transport users.

She added that the road was "quite congested during the week, we get lorries and everything down here".

Likewise Maurice Osborne, a flower seller enjoying the sunny June morning, said traffic was "always bad along here".

He was optimistic that Mr Livingstone would not extend the zone.

"It's a good idea, but I think he was just testing the water by making the suggestion. Kensington and Chelsea people have too much clout."

Travelling from Bromley in east London, Mr Osborne would have to pay the charge - but was undecided whether he would pass on all or some of the extra cost to customers.

"If [Livingstone] does it, then he does it. I'm too old to worry about it."

An alternative scheme offered by Gordon Taylor, chairman of the West London Resident's Association, is to charge only on congested roads - not all roads.

"It's being trialled in Bristol and other places around Europe and it's proved to be very satisfactory.

"Within the same time scale as he wants to put this zone in, this technology is available, and in fact his own transport for London are doing trials on it."





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