As George Orwell never wrote, all vehicles are equal, but some are more equal than others. Using environmental policies as an excuse, the council is expected to implement a parking charge hike of one-third from January.
JEREMY CLACKSON, transport correspondent, reports
The council is expected to remove all free parking bays in the borough’s district centres from January 1, to the outrage of many shop-owners, pubs, restaurants and cafés who in 2020 have endured the toughest trading conditions since the end of the Second World War.
And because the council’s ageing pay and display parking meters cannot cope with emissions-based parking charges, all vehicles – even the most eco-friendly – will be hit with a 30% hike in parking charges. It will be up to the vehicle owners to claim back refunds on the over-charging parking fees.
Business owners in South Norwood, Thornton Heath, New Addington Central Parade, Purley, Coulsdon Town centre, Beulah Hill, Addiscombe and South Croydon will all be affected by the changes to emissions-based parking charges and the end of the free-parking periods.
Many have expressed fears that the permanent removal of the half-hour or one-hour on-street free parking provision could further damage their trade.
The proposals are part of a council scheme to extend its emissions-based scheme to all on-street parking bays and council-run car parks. Last year the council introduced emissions-based charging for streets with resident permits – what some regarded as a £300 parking tax.
Last month, the council ran a barely-noticed and under-publicised consultation on its latest proposals.
Ostensibly, this is presented as the latest measure by the council to encourage residents to use less-polluting vehicles. The reality is that there will be a parking charge hike for everyone, and more cash going to the council, with the expectation that few, if any, drivers of less-polluting cars will ever bother seeking their discount.
According to the council, the new parking charges are supposed to be based on three pricing bands – electric vehicles; standard cars using petrol, or diesel engines introduced since September 2015; and a third category of vehicles that produce more than 185gm per kilometre of carbon dioxide.
“Parking charges for zero-emission vehicles would be reduced by about 90 per cent, while charges for the highest emission vehicles would be increased by 30 per cent,” the council said in announcing the scheme.
But a council report also admits that its pay and display machines are unable to cope with an emissions-based parking charges scheme, and so all drivers will be charged the top rate. Might it be that the council is hoping that very few drivers will go to the time and trouble of seeking a refund on their hour’s parking charge, even if they drive an electric vehicle?
The report is another paragon on bungled administration from the executive director of Place, Shifa Mustafridaysoff.
In the latest cack-handed introduction of a traffic scheme by Croydon Council, many business owners in the borough’s district centres question the wisdom of such measures at this time, given the huge impact covid-19 and the lockdowns have already had on their trade this year.
In a normal year, the council collects around £12million in permit and parking fees – money which is supposed to be spent only on road improvements and traffic measures. There are 460 time-limited one-hour parking bays in the borough, which are currently controlled through the issue of a pass for the first 60 minutes’ parking from a pay and display machine. Some of the parking bays in the district centre have been out of use for most of this year, the space re-allocated for cycle lanes.
According to the council, “The nature of the free parking scheme does not facilitate the agreed emissions-based measure. Introducing a level of parking charges will enable the emissions scheme.”
Counter-intuitively, the council even suggests that introducing parking charges “would also help improve customer access and footfall, and the attractiveness of public realm near shops and other business outlets in the district centres”.
In a council report that was quietly slipped out in September, they said, “In a scenario of an unlimited number of parking bays, free parking is effective in maximising parking place use – and car use. In the real cases of the district shopping centres where a more limited number of parking bays exist, however, free parking reduces turnover in bays use and, therefore, restricts car-borne access to the local businesses.
“Car-borne access level to the district centre shops and businesses depends on the turnover in the parking events. Drivers perceive ‘free’ parking as a free-for-everything and the one-hour free zones are generally subject to a higher level of misuse, due to the commonly held view that ‘free’ should mean unenforced – and unenforced means that illegal parking is inconsequential and acceptable.”
The report does not offer any evidence for this – presumably, if drivers are abusing the free parking bays, traffic wardens will be issuing copious amounts of parking tickets, potentially generating millions of pounds in fines. But such figures to support this argument are not available anywhere in the report.
The council claims that, “Complains [sic] from traders about loading bays abuse and general bad parking practices that reduce the turnover in parking events – ie reduces business footfall – is higher from areas with free parking. The parking enforcement function is already issuing a disproportionately high number of penalty charges in one-hour free bay areas, compared to those in chargeable parking places.”
According to the council, “Shoppers and traders would easily perceive a further increase of enforcement in the one-hour free zones as being over-zealous, due to the commonly held view that ‘free’ should also mean unenforced. More enforcement is therefore not the solution to improving business footfall.”
The council argues that having free parking areas encourages people to use their cars to drive there. “Shoppers who could easily walk to the local shops are attracted to use the car and thereby unnecessarily impede access for car-borne shoppers who cannot easily walk… Cars circulating in search for difficult to find vacant parking bays adds to traffic congestion, which further makes the public realm unattractive to those travelling on foot…
“Instead of free parking, the real footfall potential in the district shopping/business centres lays in encouraging more walking, cycling and bus-borne shoppers. Parking charges would be set to secure more easily accessible parking bays for customers who have essential car needs.”
There is a huge snag in the scheme proposed, which the council admits.
“Vehicle CO2 checks cannot be implemented on [pay and display] machines,” the council report states. The council is using 20th-century technology to run a 21st-century emissions-based parking charges scheme.
“Statutory guidance on managing and enforcing P&D bays require that information is clear to drivers,” the council says.
“The P&D machines have a small finite amount of space for displaying notices and three small-print tariff tables would become unacceptably difficult to read. This is a further reason for the payments at the machines lists the higher band only, to assure that tariff information is clearly presented to drivers.”
It all means that even those who drive electric vehicles will still have to pay the full parking charge at the council’s pay and display machines.
The report states, “Technical constraints at the P&D machine dictates that the emission-based charges structure should be presented as a default Band 3 charge, from which lower emission vehicles are offered discounts.” Getting your money back from the council for that quick trip to the shops should be fun.
And try picking the bones out of this… “The 36p that result from a +30% mark-up on the pre-existing £1.20 is equivalent to a -23% mark-down on £1.56. The resulting -92% and -23% discounts do not lend themselves to summary mental arithmetic and would feel unclear to drivers.
“In order to make sense to drivers, it is therefore recommended to round the percentage discounts to -90% and -25%. It must also be considered that the P&D machine minimum coinage is 10p and the higher band therefore needs rounding to £1.60. The extra 4p in the highest Band 3 balances out with the additional 2% discount afforded in the majority middle Band 2.”
Got that? Terrific…
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