Edinburgh council votes to carry on with plans for workplace parking levy

Edinburgh is to press ahead with plans for a workplace parking levy despite the administration’s opposition to the scheme.

By Ian Swanson
Friday, 1st July 2022, 8:38 am

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A meeting of the full city council voted by 41 to 12 to continue exploration of the levy (WPL) with the intention of implementation. A Tory call for “no action” was voted down.

The SNP motion, which was backed by the Greens and the Lib Dems, argued the WPL would create additional funding needed to improve the city’s transport network, provide cleaner, sustainable travel options and help to eradicate transport inequalities.

The council will get an update report on the workplace parking levy later in the year. Picture: Lisa Ferguson.

And it asked for a report later in the year with appropriate options on which workplaces should be considered, what exemptions might be necessary and how revenues raised can be reserved for improvements to the transport network.

Transport convener Scott Arthur said: “We still have concerns that the SNP have failed to really address some of the predictable negative consequences of the WPL. But we are a democratic party so we will accept the will of the council and bring forward the report so it can be considered.

"We are concerned the SNP have made no attempt to speak to low-paid shift workers, who often don’t have access to public transport, about the impact it could have on them.

"And the other big issue is displacement parking around businesses, particularly in places like the Gyle, where people might just park in residential areas rather than their company’s car park. They have not sought to address those legitimate concerns.”

Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth says the WPL could help create a greener transport system. Picture: Jane Barlow.

He said in Nottingham, the only UK city which currently has a WPL, vehicle kilometres had increased by 10 per cent since it was introduced while Edinburgh had seen a seven per cent increase in the same period.

And he said the Capital should be looking instead at the example of Paris, which was investing in public transport and active travel and, as that expanded, removing parking because there was less need for it.

"We are seeing parking as an income source, whereas parking is part of the issue. We have a colossal car park at the St James Quarter and all that does is drive traffic – people want to drive to it, whereas if that car park wasn’t there maybe people would be more likely to use the bus.”

But Green councillor Chas Booth said the WPL was an essential part of the city’s transport strategy. “It really helps in lots of ways to drive sustainable transport forward. It discourages people from using the least sustainable means of travel so it’s essential we tart getting ready for when the powers will come in, which I understand will be very soon.”

The council’s vote came as guidance was published for local councils, detailing how they could introduce the charge. Under the scheme, local authorities will be able to decide “key elements” of any levy that is introduced – including the area in which it would apply, the amount of the charge and on local exemptions.

However, parking places reserved for Blue Badge holders will be exempt from any schemes, as well as parking places at hospices and certain parking places at NHS sites.

Councils who want to introduce a WPL would first have to carry out a consultation and impact assessment. Only after that could a charge, which would be levied on employers who provide parking spaces for their workers, be introduced.

Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth said: “The workplace parking levy is a key tool which empowers local councils in encouraging people out of their cars and onto more sustainable modes of transport. This is vitally important if we are to reach a 20 per cent reduction in car kilometres by 2030.

“The levy can also support improvements in public or active transport, making it more attractive and therefore encouraging individuals to leave their cars at home."

Conservative transport spokesman Graham Simpson said: “Scottish businesses and their hard-working staff are dreading the introduction of this scheme and many are wondering how they are going to cope with the potentially exorbitant charges in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis.

“As long as the SNP fail to provide Scotland with a public transport system that is affordable and fit for purpose, punitive measures like this will have no environmental benefit.”

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