Traders say parking charges in Hatch End are “killing” their businesses as shoppers begin to avoid what was once a busy and lively area.

Nearly 200 people have signed a petition for free parking to be reinstated in the Grimsdyke Road car park, after a charge of 20p per hour was introduced last July.

Last week, Harrow Borough Council officers voted to pass a provision for 20 minutes of free parking in streets across the borough.

But shopkeepers in Uxbridge Road fear the free spaces will be clogged up by commuters using nearby Hatch End station and they will avoid paying 20p to run short errands.

Haresh Patel, who has owned the Post Office with his wife, Charu, for 25 years, said: “We launched the petition because nobody listens to us and we’re so worried about what the future might hold.

“It’s impossible for customers to come and see us now. They’re driving trade away and it’s absolutely killing what we’ve worked so hard to build.

“We’ve been suffering - there must be something we can do about it. It’s nonsense.”

The business, which was named as the best Post Office in London in 2009, has seen a 35 per cent dip in trade since last July.

Independent councillor Stanley Sheinwald is also supporting the petition, as he fears it could spell the end for traders in Hatch End.

He said since the charges were introduced, the Grimsdyke Road car park is virtually empty each day.

Cllr Sheinwald added: “The council have a funny way of helping small businesses. It’s ridiculous - I don’t know what they expect shoppers to do.

“Since the meters have gone into the car park, trade has gone right down. People don’t come in to pop into the chemist or the post office anymore.

“People are worried and quite rightly so.”

A statement from Harrow Council said: “A small charge of 20 pence an hour was introduced in Grimsdyke car park in July last year to curb an issue with commuter parking and free up more spaces for people to park short term.

“We are confident we have made it easier for people to park within walking distance of local shops as there are now more spaces available for them to do so.

“We are committed to supporting traders in Hatch End and are happy to meet with them to discuss this further.”