“The problem isn’t with cars being parked, it’s with cars being driven.” Croydon’s Labour-run council is putting forward proposals for £300 per year resident parking permits which will hit the poor and the elderly hardest, as transport correspondent JEREMY CLACKSON reports
Controversial councillor Paul Scott is presenting a report to Monday’s council cabinet meeting which will recommend nearly quadrupling the annual car parking permit fee paid by some residents.
Croydon residents who now pay £80 for the privilege of on-street parking near their homes could face an eye-watering charge of £300 in future, on top of their steepling Council Tax bills, under proposals which Scott calls “Emission-based Parking Charges”.
But there’s an oxymoronic element to the council’s chosen phrasing, as one local environmentalist highlights: “The problem isn’t with cars being parked, it’s with cars being driven.”
The Labour-controlled council’s new policy is aimed at having 10,500 fewer cars in the borough by 2041, based on targets set by the Mayor of London’s transport policy.
But this new supposedly “green” policy is coming from a council which is paying £10million a year to pollute the atmosphere through burning the borough’s rubbish at an industrial-scale incinerator at Beddington Lane, and from a council whose leaders want to build a vast shopping mall in the town centre, which will have 3,500 parking spaces for people to drive their cars into the borough.
And all this in a city where the Mayor is reducing the number of buses and bus services, and in an area of the capital where there has been no extension of the widely admired tram network for 20 years.
Yesterday, Croydon Council’s press office issued a release announcing its “green” policies, including a proposal to reduce residents’ parking fees to £65 per year, or even £6.50 per year for those who own the least polluting vehicles.
The council press release withheld all detail of the kind of increases in charges that the owners of other vehicles might face. Today’s publication of the report to cabinet makes it clear why they were reluctant to share such information.
Anyone who does not own an electric car or a hybrid with the lowest of emissions, will face at least a 30 per cent increase in parking levies, to £104 per year.
The fees then spiral upwards, depending on the levels of emissions which a car might generate: to £146 per year for a Band 4 vehicle with CO2 emissions of 166-225 g/km, rising further to £300 a year for the most polluting vehicles or those registered before March 2001.
“The rationale for the differential charges is to incentivise car owners in the decision they take about their next car,” the council report, published this afternoon, states.
Elsewhere in the council report, there is an admission that the figures suggested for the increased parking fees which the council wants to impose on Council Tax-payers have not even been properly calculated.
“The financial implications of implementing a parking policy as detailed in this report can not be fully developed at this stage due to the draft policy being subject to engagement and the proposals in relation to Emission-Based Parking Charges being subject to consultation and the outcomes unknown,” they say.
Which is as clear an admission as you can get that for Bands 3 and upwards, they’ve just plucked the numbers out of the air.
The council tries to justify this by stating: “There is a trade-off between moderating the complexity from too many changing bands and the sufficiency in bands to offer realistic step changes that car owners can make… A significant number of London boroughs have now introduced emission-based permit charges, and there is a broad level of support for the principle of ‘polluter pays’…
“The discount offered, relative to the highest charge Band 5, must be sufficient to create a real incentive for a car owner to switch to a lower emission car.”
The money raised from parking charges cannot, by law, be used by the council for anything other than road-related expenditure. The council report admits that, under the provisions of the Road Traffic Regulations Act 1984, “any fees set are required to be reasonable and proportionate”.
They say, “Statutory guidance confirms that raising revenue should not be an objective of civil parking enforcement, nor should authorities set targets for revenue or the number of penalty charge notices they issue.” It could be that Croydon’s Labour-run council is laying itself open to challenges that raising parking charges by 375 per cent is neither reasonable nor proportionate.
Transport experts have criticised Croydon’s policy for being a “regressive tax”, which will penalise the borough’s older and poorer residents, while company car-drivers and those wealthy enough to own homes with off-street parking will be untouched by the huge hike in parking fees.
“It’s the sort of thing you’d suggest only if you really didn’t have much of a clue about transport policy,” one City Hall figure told Inside Croydon.
Studies have even shown that the owners of older cars tend to use drive them less, and are therefore responsible for less emissions than the owners of more modern and larger-engined vehicles.
Even a leading local environmentalist says that the proposals are unfair and won’t achieve the objective of reducing car use.
Peter Underwood, of Croydon and Sutton Greens, told Inside Croydon, “To reduce air pollution and climate change we need to encourage more people to leave their cars at home, or not have a car, and to walk, cycle, or use public transport instead. I support the intentions of the council’s measures, but I think they are going about it the wrong way.
“The problem isn’t with cars being parked, it’s with cars being driven.
“Introducing restrictions on parking at destinations (for example, outside a school) can be useful as a way of encouraging people to use other transport methods.
“But increasing costs of parking a car outside your own house seems a very blunt instrument to tackle the problem. This will impact more on people with older vehicles and in less wealthy areas of Croydon who don’t have off-street parking and they are probably not the ones doing the most driving.
“A more sensible idea would be to have a system similar the congestion charge, but with a more sophisticated system to measure the length of journeys and the type of vehicle used. In this way those people producing the most pollution would be penalised the most, not just anyone who owns a car.”
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