Nottingham has achieved its carbon emissions reduction target four years’ early, thanks in part to the introduction of the Workplace Parking Levy (WPL).
Data shows a 33% drop in carbon emissions since 2005, beating a target set by Nottingham City Council to achieve a 26% reduction by 2020. It puts Nottingham top of all the largest cities in the UK outside London, for the greatest reduction in emissions and the lowest emissions per head of population.
A significant part of the reduction – around 13 percentage points – has been down to the popularity of public transport, cycling and walking, which have received millions of pounds in funding from the WPL. The levy has raised £25.3 million in its first three years.
Bridget Fox, sustainable transport campaigner at the Campaign for Better Transport, praised Nottingham’s “pioneering use” of the parking charge.
She said: “This fantastic record is one that other local authorities should follow. Councils have had these powers since 2000, and Nottingham shows how well they can work.”
Employers in Nottingham that provide 11 or more workplace parking places are required to pay an annual charge for each parking space on their premises.
However, spaces used by fleet vehicles parked at an employer’s premises, which are not used to travel to and from work, along with vehicles used to deliver or collect goods, are exempt from the charge. Other exemptions include customer parking and disabled spaces.
The levy, which is invested in public transport projects, is £379 per parking space for this financial year – up more than £90 since it was introduced in 2012.
A spokesman at Nottingham City Council told Fleet News: “In its first three years of operation, the WPL has raised £25.3 million, which is being invested back into transport improvements in the city – namely the expansion of Nottingham’s tram network, the redevelopment of Nottingham train station and funding the city’s Link bus network, which serves key employment sites including hospitals, universities and park and ride services.”
Local business group the East Midlands Chamber (EMC) says that, while it would be a “quantum leap” to say businesses now support the scheme, they accept it as a cost of doing business in Nottingham.
“What few businesses understood at the time was that the levy is a business expense which can be offset against other tax demands, so in a way it became just a different means of collecting tax, but with the money going straight to Nottingham instead of via central Government,” said an EMC spokesman.
However, four years after the parking scheme was launched, and 16 years since councils were given the powers to introduce the charge, no other local authority has followed Nottingham’s lead.
Birmingham City Council’s leader ruled out introducing a charge in April, after it was criticised by local businesses.
Meanwhile, Oxford County Council has included a WPL in its local transport plan – a blueprint which sets out potential work from 2016 to 2031. But, a council spokesman stressed that there was “no set timetable” for its introduction.
However, the levy has been proposed as part of an eight-point plan to tackle congestion in Cambridge by the Greater Cambridge City Deal; a partnership between three local councils, business and academia. Employers have until October 10 to provide initial feedback.
A spokesman said the WPL would be subject to a “detailed and lengthy consultation with employers to reach a solution that matches the needs and profile of the Cambridge city region” which were “very different” from Nottingham.
He continued: “A report with detailed recommendations will be submitted for a decision by the board in January 2017 – at this stage we will know whether WPL will be pursued.”
However, Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce has hit out at the plan to charge employers for workplace parking spaces, labelling it a “tax on business”.
The business group’s chief executive John Bridge had been a Greater Cambridge City Deal board member, but quit when the parking charge plan was announced. He told Fleet News: “We do not support the introduction of a workplace parking levy. It is a tax on business. Council transport departments have suffered significant cuts in funding and this is purely a money-making exercise; it’s about raising money to offset the money councils have lost.”