Edinburgh businesses which give employees free parking spaces facing levy under new plans

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Companies could be charged for letting employees park outside offices across the city as part of the council’s campaign to cut congestion and air pollution.

Edinburgh City Council’s transport and environment committee agreed to investigate setting up a workplace parking levy and will “set out the argument and rationale” for introducing a scheme, which could also include customer parking.

Employers which give  free parking spaces face a levy.

Employers which give free parking spaces face a levy.

Nottingham was the first place in the UK to introduce a levy in 2010 and the SNP-Labour administration in Edinburgh wants to follow suit.

In Nottingham, businesses are charged £402 each year per space and the money goes towards transport improvements, including extending the city’s tram network. Some employers may choose to reclaim the cost of the levy from their employees.

The scheme would likely follow the example set in Nottingham where all organisations and premises with more than ten parking places are liable for the charge.

The council would need permission from the Scottish Government to introduce the levy, with a route identified through an amendment to the Transport Bill.

Transport and environment convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, said: “We’re still at a very early stage and our next steps will involve setting out an argument and rationale for introducing a workplace parking levy in order to seek the necessary legislative changes from the Scottish Government to introduce such a measure.

“However, we’re confident that introducing a workplace parking levy would achieve many benefits – reducing the number of car journeys made into the city and in turn lowering congestion, improving air quality and encouraging active travel amongst all those who work here.

“This would very much be part of our broader ambitions to transform the way we use the city centre, including the introduction of a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) and proposals for city centre transformation.”

It is hoped a levy would tally up around £9 million a year to pay for improvements to Edinburgh’s transport network, but council officers said the annual revenue generated could be as much as £15m.

A report to councillors said: “Edinburgh is a commuter work destination. We have issues with our road maintenance and investment in transport infrastructure.

“Introducing a workplace parking levy in Edinburgh would be an example of 
devolving further responsibility and powers to local authorities and could support investment in our transport infrastructure and maintenance.”

Conservatives opposed the council’s stance on introducing the policy and asked for a balanced report on the positives and negatives of the levy.

Cllr Nick Cook said: “We are almost setting an assumption that the council is in favour of introducing a workplace parking levy.”

His Conservative colleague, Cllr Scott Douglas, added: “It seems like we are putting the cart before the horse.

“I think we should take time to consider it, in both pros 
and cons. I also have concerns over business engagement with it.”

Green Cllr Chas Booth asked the committee whether there was “an opportunity to include customer parking as well” in the scheme. He said: “Some recognise it as a missing link in sustainable transport.”

The committee agreed to include looking at a “wider non-residential parking levy which could also cover customer parking spaces”.

Plans for a LEZ have been billed as having the potential to “leave a legacy” for future generations.

The council is carrying out an eight-week public consultation on how to shape the future of transport in Edinburgh.

A prospectus outlining three visions, including a radical approach where the city centre would be “largely traffic-free”, will form the start of a long consultation process with the public.

Key roads across Edinburgh will be closed to traffic once a month in what will be a Scottish first. The traffic-free days, which could shut down areas including Portobello and Stockbridge, are due to start early next year.

newsen@edinburghnews.com