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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How on earth are the overcharged parking fees going to be refunded? Cheques or card transfer. Just think how many, potentially, there are going to be each day. The mind boggles, but at least one of the 400 staff that are due to be dismissed will find a job. This was just not thought through, unless one accepts that the council are just plain devious
Well this approach is similar to what tfl did with oyster, Tfl collected 400m tax free from unused balances on oyster cards – https://www.ft.com/content/7432db90-0600-11ea-a984-fbbacad9e7dd. If croydon do the same think, there will be at least 1-2 million after a few years of tax free money they can spend. This approach is brutal on the resident however but with no genuine sources of income, what can they do?
Fascinating! I do wonder sometimes (no, often) about these people.
Have the council calculated the cost of return of the “overpayments” to the “customer”? Also, who is going to take this task on bearing in mind the perceived redundancies? What proof will be required to prevent me claiming my vehicle is all electric?
No surprise to be honest when you see what other councils have put in place already. Perhaps not greener cars though. That said it is clear Croydon do not want cars period. There will be a time when most places are pedestrianised in the name of climate change. Be careful what you wish for. I’m buying a horse and cart next.
Croydon council are so in debt from there bad handling of our finances, that now on our 2nd lock down, whilst a lot of people can not work, or earn money, yet the yellow bandits can work and give out parking tickets. It’s a disgrace and I thought we were all in it together. No not the case. Our council only care as long as we keep paying them. I’am moving,
Sorry Hans, but you will be charged atmosphere-damaging equine gaseous emissions, and wear and tear on the roads caused by the cart wheels. No escape.
Yep! should be big industry that are hammered globally who are the biggest polluters rather than blaming ever day man all the time.
If the council want to hammer the last nails into the coffin of the High Street, these parking charge increases will really help. If they really want to reduce emissions, send out hit squads and ticket people who leave their engines running when parked.
If they want to raise revenue, set up radar speed traps and zap those who exceed the 20mph limit.
I forgot– if people get fed up with being charged too much for parking they will drive out of borough to do shopping, thereby causing yet more pollution. Plus helping the economic base of out-of -town shopping places in and outside of Croydon, but not helping Croydon’s local centres to survive.
The motorist with the older car will suffer. So the “less well off” get knocked again.
The owner of the gas guzzlin’/ twin exhaust pipe totin’ / atmosphere killin’ SUV can probably afford it.
The key thing is fairness– parity of parking charges between adjoining boroughs, and councils resisiting the temptation to hike charges. Increase charges in line with inflation. Even a bit more, but 30% ???
Hearts and Minds will be lost.
Perhaps those that make these bizarre decisions should venture to Banstead. A good variety of shops including an excellent butcher and a great greengrocer supported by free on-street parking and reasonably priced car parks that don’t appear under threat of being built on by a council owned, loss making building company!
Another win for Amazon. Like it needs it.
What planet are they on? (1) The process of applying for Residents Permits is now positively Byzantine and one needs to be a computer expert to fill in and supply the documents required (2) Drivers do not, in my experience, spend hours driving around looking for free / limited parking if the charges are reasonable (3) We are advised not to use public transport a the moment – wonderful timing! (4) How can this lot claim to be pro-environment when the late (un) lamented) Brick by Brick spent years trying to chop down every tree in sight? (5) What are they doing to oppose the suggestion that Mayor Khan has to scrap Freedom Passes? (6) there are many people who can’t carry shopping long distances to their cars (7) It is regressive as plenty of people can’t afford new electric cars yet it makes no sense to destroy any incentives to do so (8) What re they doing in fact to encourage static electric car charging spots?
It seems this is just a short-sighted Corporation Revenue Raising Scam, short sighted because it will destroy their business related charging base if shops can’t get customers in these difficult times.
Finally, what is our new, seemingly sensible, Chief Exec doing to stop this counter-productive nonsense?
There is something eerily dead about many fully pedestrianed shopping areas (like the middle stretch of Croydon High Street called North End, or areas (like the upper section of George Street, with just buses and trams), even if the air is free of car exhaust. They are a bit boring. Lifeless even. Leatherehead town centre is a classic example.
Traditionally, in the UK, we have had roads with footways each side, with a kerb to raise pedestrians above the splash zone. There is a clear understanding that pedestrians should keep on the footways unless crossing the road, and that vehicles keep in the road.
One of the hallmarks of urban life, is “bustle”– activity –of people and vehicles on the move.
No doubt, Roman London had this, with carts and horses, and crowds of people on the footways
Any Victorian photo of Croydon town centre will show similar scenes of crowds on the footways, and roads packed with horses and carts, cabs, and omnibuses. It was a living, busy place.
I would like to pose a question– are all town centres really enlivened by being pedestrinised?
Yes, Covent Garden, China Town and places like that can work, as they are “honey pots” for thousands of people every day. There is enough human activity alone, to impart the feel of life.
But most places are not like that– they need animation.
Places like Coulsdon are enlivened by the presence of a combination of people, plus buses and cars in the streets. Movement and sound. So is Banstead High Street.
Ultra noisy, highly polluted high Streets are –of course– not attractive nor healthy to be in.
South Norwood High Street has very narrow footways, and is subject to a huge amount of slow moving through traffic. It really needs a bypass, but sadly, that is impossible.
Coulsdon seems to have the ideal situation–a bypass taking the through traffic, and, in the tiown centre, real roads (open to cars as well as buses and delivery vehicles) but with generous footways (widened when the Brighton Road traffic was diverted down the new by pass).
There is always activity, but not too much traffic. The place feels safe at night as vehicles pass along the main street.
My worry about pedestrianisation, and and anti-car measures such as inadequate car parking, and high parking charges, is that we will end up with UK town centres where the shops are closed, and the only sound is of tumbleweed blowing down the main street, like many in the USA.
Yes, Deadsville USA. There are thousands of them.
Planners and politicians need to start re-integrating the car into their thinking, and designing town centres that have trees, cars, parking and people living working and shopping . To give bustle.
I am a resident of Westminster and the situation with parking here is similar to what Croydon is trying to do. Diesel cars before September 2015 are charged ~£7 per hour to park in the area. So I expect Croydon to introduce similar rates but hopefully not so high.
Yet another botched attempt at traffic management from Croydon, presented in the usual impenetrable bureaucratic language. It also contains the familiar mantra about inducing people to use public transport – at precisely the wrong moment, given the Covid19 risks. This is especially true for people like me, in my late 70s – and for whom the alternatives of cycling and walking are not realistic, least of all when carrying shopping. It seems all the more anomalous given that Croydon Council is crashing down around us, thanks to its mismanagement by the Tony Newman gang,