Finchley Market is being “killed off” by Barnet Council’s pay-by-phone parking system according to stall holders desperate to halt the steady decline.

In the middle of what should be its busiest period, the weekly Friday market, held in the Lodge Lane car park, is suffering its worst trading conditions in years, say traders.

According to many stall holders, the decline began when Barnet Council introduced its pay-by-phone system more than a year ago.

They say customers simply “can’t be bothered” to sort out the pay-by-phone parking and find payment scratch cards impossible to pick up in local shops.

Joan Jarber, whose husband has run a glasses stall at the market for six years, said: “For the pre-Christmas months, this is very quiet – I’ve never known it so bad.

“The market is down to about two thirds of what it was two years ago and it is 100 per cent down to the parking situation.

“It is ruining our business – this is our livelihood. We should be picking up for Christmas and there is no-one here.”

The council’s new parking portfolio holder, Councillor Dean Cohen, carried out a lengthy consultation among traders over the summer to revise the parking policy in North Finchley.

Since taking over from Brian Coleman in May, Cllr Cohen has twice reduced charges and recently announced plans for credit card payment machines in the new year.

Cllr Cohen said recent changes to the parking policy, including two hours of free parking in the weekend before Christmas, should be enough to bring customers back and there are no plans to introduce further measures.

He said: “The new measures deal with the off-street on-street and market parking problems. The card metres are going into the car parks for people struggling with the pay-by-phone system or finding it hard to get scratch cards. All of the measures are for the benefit of the people shopping on the high street and in the market.”

But stall holders argue that customers are staying away due to a lack of a cash payment option – something the authority has ruled out reintroducing in cost grounds.

Andrew Aarns, who owns the pet stall in the market, met a council officer during the consultation to discuss trader suggestions, including bringing back cash payments and introducing a free parking period on market days.

He said: “They have totally ignored the basic problem. We have lost the elderly and the mums coming back from the school run.

“We have already lost four or five stalls in the last year and I can quite easily see that this market will die – it is slowly being killed off by this parking policy.”

Janine Viner, who has run the household goods stall for the past 28 years, fears that if nothing changes the market will close.

The 51-year-old said: “In the last year or so, since the pay-by-phone has come in, I’m down a quarter in takings.

“It is dead here – it should be buzzing with people at this time of year. It is depressing – we’re here at 6am and up at 4am and it is all for nothing.

“We’re only here once a week – they need to bring back the cash system.”