But a planned scheme in Manchester would take things further by linking authorities together, enabling the permits issued to be valid over a wider area at a free or reduced rate.
The duo behind the idea, Keith Boxer and Leila O’Sullivan, have high hopes for the Green Badge Parking Permit (GBPP) project in Greater Manchester, which is still in development, and believe it could eventually be applied to the whole of the UK.
Low carbon vehicle owners would apply to their local authority for a GBPP, allowing them to park within any space owned by the authority for the length of time determined by regulations.
In Manchester, the plan is for permits to be issued by one of the ten local authorities but to be valid for parking throughout the region.
Permits are to be valid for 12 months and can be renewed after that time. Once a permit has been issued it cannot be transferred to another vehicle. Even if the new vehicle is a low carbon one, the owner must reapply.
When the owner sells the car, the GBPP must be returned.
The trial scheme has not been tailored for fleets and in its current form could throw up problems for company car motorists who drive leased vehicles.
Under the current scheme, only the registered keeper of the vehicle can apply for a GBPP and must provide a V5 to prove the vehicle’s low carbon emission status, an MoT certificate, driver’s licence and insurance details.
However, these are details that could be ironed out. For fleets looking at their list of company cars, offering a vehicle that reduces staff parking costs could prove financially beneficial for both individual and company.
Boxer and O’Sullivan believe the scheme can have a significant impact in Manchester and could then be widened to the rest of the country.
‘The GBPP will allow us to reduce CO2 emissions by stimulating the market for low carbon vehicles,’ they write in the report.
‘It will also increase awareness of low carbon vehicles available in the UK and their benefits for the local and wider environments, as well as rewarding individuals and businesses that use such vehicles with free or cheaper parking.’
What constitutes a green vehicle is likely to be a subject for debate.
A green parking scheme in Sheffield is open to any vehicle not solely run on petrol or diesel, including electric, gas, bio-diesel and dual-fuel cars.
However, a free parking scheme in Westminster only caters for electric vehicles. Vehicles exempt from the London Congestion Charge are decided under the Powershift Register, compiled by the Energy Saving Trust.
Boxer and O’Sullivan believe the register is too wide-ranging and complex for the Manchester GBPP Scheme – they prefer to determine eligibility by CO2 levels rather than by fuel type.
They propose that vehicles with CO2 levels under 120g/km would be eligible to apply – the UK average is 174g/km.
This benchmark would allow single-fuelled but relatively clean petrol and diesel vehicles such as the Citroen C1, Smart Fortwo, Ford Fiesta and Fiat Grande Punto to be included.
However, Boxer and O’Sullivan warn that it will be necessary in the future to redefine the CO2 threshold as manufacturers continue to lower output.
The success of their scheme relies on the co-operation of local authorities.
There is no legislation forcing authorities to lower CO2 emissions in their areas, but they are accountable for improving air quality and promoting sustainable development. It is these responsibilities that Boxer and O’Sullivan believe will win over authorities.
Of the ten Greater Manchester authorities, some have expressed a keen interest while others say they would prefer to discuss the project when it is more developed. Some have expressed an interest in running a pilot GBPP scheme.
‘Local authorities will play an important role in the implementation of the GBPP project,’ the report’s authors say.
‘They have to be prepared to undertake the work required to process GBPP applications, possibly recouping some or all of the cost through an administration fee.
‘However, passing this fee on to applicants may diminish the positive publicity for the project in the early stages.’
An added problem is that authorities may have to accept a reduction in parking revenue, but Boxer and O’Sullivan say this could be managed by controlling the number of permits issued.
The authors are confident that the Manchester GBPP could be replicated at national level in congested urban areas.
‘Not only would the GBPP project be transferable regionally, its benefits would impact more widely,’ they say.
‘The GBPP could be used as an alternative financial incentive for areas of the country where the congestion charge is not in place.
Go green – drive for free
CHOOSE a low carbon-emitting car and park for free. It sounds simple and is the latest idea to encourage the take-up of green vehicles.
The proposal from Manchester: Knowledge Capital (a partnership of local authorities, universities, a strategic health authority, other key public agencies and businesses) is one of several presented by the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership after its Low Carbon Road Transport Challenge.
Launched in 2005, the challenge threw down the gauntlet to academics, think tanks and anyone else who could construct an innovative policy proposal to promote low carbon vehicles and fuels.