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Finsbury fish shop battered by new parking restrictions

Fish Central's George Hussein says new parking restrictions are killing businesses in the area

15 September, 2017 — By Emily Finch

George Hussein outside his Fish Central restaurant this week

SMALL business owners in Finsbury have said “our days are numbered” after the Town Hall introduced new parking restrictions that they say have halved the number of customers into their stores.

Legendary restaurant owner George Hussein, who has run Fish Central in King Square, off Central Street, for 48 years and offers free Christmas meals to the elderly, said he was considering shutting up shop after a sharp decline in customers in recent weeks.

“The council are destroying the neighbourhood feeling.” said Mr Hussein. “Family businesses are already being eaten away by big supermarkets. With the parking restrictions we’ve now lost a lot of customers. They simply do not come here any more if they have to pay for parking.”

He added: “I’m over 70 years old, I don’t deserve this kind of treatment after all these years of being here.”

Traders Brenda Doyle, Donna Leighburn-Gatt, Jignesh Patel and George Hussein are concerned about the new parking rules

Mr Hussein, who lives off Skinner Street, estimates he is losing around £1,200 a month with around 40 fewer people entering his restaurant a week. He currently employs 25 members of staff in his restaurant and adjacent bakery, where he said footfall had also significantly decreased with fewer people parking for short periods and taking away food.

Parking in Central Street near King Square was previously free Monday to Friday after 6.30pm and after 1.30pm on Saturday. But from June visitors have to pay a flat fee of £2.40 outside restricted hours. Within the restricted time parking costs £5.40 an hour. The parking restrictions were passed two years ago by Town Hall chiefs.

Mr Hussein said he met Town Hall transport chief Councillor Claudia Webbe on Friday, who suggested a new three-car taxi rank in Central Street so taxi drivers would be able to park and visit his stores.

“If they put a taxi rank there no one else can park,” said Mr Hussein. “When I came here they [the shops] were all derelict and had graffiti all over and were all boarded up. Most of these shops were empty. And I came here. Our days are num- bered and we are serious- ly going to close down.”

Other shop owners in King Square have said footfall has decreased by up to 50 per cent following the new parking restrictions.

Jignesh Patel, who has run Guy’s Newsagents for six years, said he had seen a sharp decline in cab drivers coming into his store. “We are thinking we might close. We are struggling to get business,” he said.

Ms Doyle in her flower shop

Brenda Doyle of Rusty’s Flowers said: “We don’t get passing trade. No one can park to pick anything up.”

Meanwhile, Donna Leighburn-Gatt, who has owned Zodiac’s hairdresser in the square for 17 years, said she had seen a decline in elderly customers. “There’s been a big difference. We have people who are infirm who need to be able to park or people who need to park and wait for people. The council haven’t even told us to be aware of the changes,” she said.

Cllr Webbe said she had not received complaints about the parking restrictions from any other businesses other than Mr Hussein’s. She said King Square customers could park in nearby Lever Street, which is in a different parking zone and allows free parking after 6.30pm on Monday to Friday and after 1.30pm on Saturday.

“There was majority support for it in the consultation and the majority of people are happy,” she said, adding: “With Mr Hussein, we haven’t come up with any firm agreements. We’ve just come up with ideas.”

More than 300 people have signed a petition backing Mr Hussein’s call to reverse the parking restrictions.

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