Fury as diving centre in Stratford used by Tom Daley to hike parking charges by 1,500 per cent
PUBLISHED: 18:54 03 February 2017 | UPDATED: 13:29 06 February 2017
Parents who use a diving centre where Olympic bronze medallist Tom Daley trains could be force to withdraw their children if parking charges are hiked by 1,500 per cent.
Parking fees at the London Aquatics Centre in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford, are to increase in a bid to plug a financial hole.
However some users of the centre claim they may have to force their children to quit as they will be unable to afford the charges.
One parent told the Recorder her annual parking bill could rise by a whopping 1,500 per cent – from £72 to £1,152 annually – once the new charges come into effect at Stratford’s London Aquatics Centre on Feburary 20.
Forest Gate mum Natalie Drew, who has a 12-year-old son in the London Aquatics Centre Performance Programme (LACPP) – and Tom Daley diving programme – plus a 10-year-old daughter in the LACPP, says public transport is not an alternative.
The 48-year-old said: “Have you ever tried to get and children to and from various after school activities in time using public transport? I bet none of those that made this decision have.
“When you have to fit in homework, eating and sleep, the extra time makes a massive difference.”
Natalie is one of several parents angered by London Legacy Development Corporation’s (LLDC) disproportionate price rises at both the Aquatic Centre car park and multi-storey car park in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Several parents have told the Recorder that their children will have to leave the centre as a result of the implemented charges.
At present, parking is free for the first hour which includes a pick-up and drop-off point located within a 30-second walk from the entrance.
After that, it’s £1.50 for up to two hours while the maximum amount is £15 for 15 hours.
Under the new system, there will be no free parking except for blue badge holders. Drivers will be charged £2 per hour from 7am each day which is capped at £20.
LLDC has publicity admitted that the new charges are part of a bid to make millions of savings in 2017/18, as members told a London Assembly budget and performance committee meeting in January.
LLDC chief executive David Goldstone said: “Part of the £3.8m of savings and efficiencies you are talking about is – we are, for example, increasing income on our car parking charges around the park.
“You know, those sort of things, we’re incrementally pushing the income, making sure we can minimise the burden on the GLA budget overall.”
More than £1.2 million reductions will need to be made at the London Aquatics Centre, ArcelorMittal Orbit and Copper Box Arena.
An LLDC member told the committee they were “by far the largest element” and the cost of the aquatics centre was “significant”.
However, one parent says turning the car park into a “public transport area” is not a suitable option for everyone.
Mum-of-three Jenny Richards who travels from Sevenoaks, Kent, and has children aged 10, seven and two, says her choices are stark.
She will either have to pay £1,800 a year or swap her 45-minute car journey for a two-hour plus each-way journey on multiple forms of public transport.
“We can’t just drop the children off and come back,” she said.
Parents will still be able to drop-off and pick-up their children for free an area they’ve labelled unsafe.
“This walk takes three minutes and 20 secs, where the old drop-off area is 30 seconds walk,” explained Jonathan Reid, whose son Tom Reid-Gomez, 13, swims six days a week in one of the centre’s legacy programme.
“The child will be lost from view as parents are required to stay with the vehicle. We see this as not supporting our duty of care to minors for which we are all responsible – LLDC included.”
A spokeswoman for the LLDC said: “Car parking charges at the London Aquatics Centre are increasing for the first time in two years.
“The increased charges continue to ensure that the cost of swimming is consistent with other local pools, and the proceeds will be re-invested in the upkeep of the Park, so that millions of people can continue to enjoy it every year.
“The park and venues are easily accessible by a wide range of public transport routes, as well as cycling and walking, and since 2012 we have been fully committed to reducing reliance on cars.
“The majority of people who use the London Aquatics Centre do not come by car and therefore will be unaffected by this change.”
Both Newham Council and Greater London Authority were contacted for comment but said it was a matter for the LLDC.
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