Workplace parking levy could cut air pollution levels

Tuesday February 19th 2019

Edinburgh

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, David Bol

Campaigners have called for city councillors to get behind proposals to introduce a workplace parking levy in order to help tackle an “air pollution crisis”.

The Scottish Government has opened the door for proposals for councils to charge employers who allow workers to park at work around £400 a year per space.

Nottingham City Council, the only UK authority to introduce a workplace parking levy, said the policy has slowed traffic growth – despite congestion in England and comparable cities increasing since 2012. Between July 2014 and July 2015, Nottingham was the only core city in England to experience a reduction in journey time per vehicle mile on locally managed A roads in the morning peak period.

Although it can’t be wholly attributed to one factor, nitrogen dioxide pollution in Nottingham has reduced by 36 per cent since 1998, believed to be in part down to investment in greener public transport, supported by the workplace parking levy.

The City of Edinburgh Council will bring forward plans for its low emission zone and city centre transformation later this year – which will all attempt to reduce pollution levels in the Capital. Campaigners have called for councillors to embrace the proposals as part of a network of ideas to reduce levels of air pollution in the Capital.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s air pollution campaigner, Gavin Thomson, said: “By encouraging people to think twice about using the car for everyday journeys, this levy can relieve the congestion and pressure on our streets.

“The new low emission zone details are still to be finalised but the urgency of the air pollution crisis means that it must keep out the most polluting vehicles. Edinburgh has some of the worst pollution levels in Scotland, with four sites breaking the law year after year. Air pollution endangers everyone in our city, but it is most harmful to young people and those with existing health problems. Action to cut traffic on our streets will bring benefits for us all.”

A national lung charity has also called for all options to be left on the table, but has warned about potentially penalising vulnerable people.

Joseph Carter, head of British Lung Foundation Scotland, said: “A workplace parking levy has considerable potential to reduce car use and improve air quality, but we are also conscious that, for some people, cars are the only transport option available. For example, people living with lung disease who are using oxygen therapy might need to use a car to transport their medical equipment to their place of work, enabling them to continue in employment.

“In designing the workplace parking levy, Edinburgh Council must strike a balance between tackling the harmful health effects of air pollution and ensuring that vulnerable people are not penalised for needing to have access to a vehicle for medical reasons.”

Transport and environment convener, Councillor Lesley Macinnes, said: “The introduction of a workplace parking levy could be a very positive step in tackling poor air quality and congestion in the city.

“This is about encouraging modal shift, and by raising revenue a levy would let us further invest in expanding and enhancing our public transport system, as well as pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, giving commuters the choice to leave their cars at home.

“Any proposals to introduce a workplace parking levy would, quite rightly, require a period of in-depth research and consultation with businesses and organisations in order to ensure any solution strikes the best balance for the people who work and live in Edinburgh.”

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