A motion being proposed by Green Councillors to next Tuesday’s November 9 Council Meeting calls on Bristol Council to set out a plan to develop a Workplace Parking Levy (WPL), a charge on businesses that have private employee parking (frequently as a perk for senior managers), used to fund sustainable transport projects for the city.
A similar scheme has been operating in Nottingham for ten years and won a prestigious ‘Ashden Award’ for sustainable travel in 2017. As well as reducing traffic congestion and therefore air pollution, the levy could raise over £12 million each year to improve transport in the city – money to pay for more frequent and cheaper buses, a joined-up safe cycling network, or even work on a tram or underground system.
The motion, proposed by Lockleaze Councillor David Wilcox calls on the administration to publish a recently produced WPL ‘appraisal report’, commit to establishing a WPL (as long as the report’s conclusions are positive) and set out a timetabled delivery plan to ensure it happens as soon as possible. The appraisal report was produced after a Green budget amendment in February 2020 provided funding for it.
If the Green motion passes, a Workplace Parking Levy could be ready to launch as early as 2024, following the necessary reports and consultation. The money raised by the levy could be used in the shorter term to fund a variety of transport improvements such as joined-up and safe cycling routes across the city, increased bus services, reduced ticket prices and in the longer-term fund mass transit capability such as trams and trains. Nottingham successfully used revenue generated by their workplace parking scheme to double the size of their tram network and fund other transport work, generating over £44 million between 2012 and 2017. The Council has been able to use the revenue stream to unlock £600m of inward investment, including £200m for their electric bus fleet.
Councillor Wilcox said:
“The Workplace Parking Levy, or as I prefer to call it, the Corporate Parking Levy, will bring many benefits to Bristol commuters and residents, such as reduced commuting traffic and air pollution. In addition, it could provide over £12 million each year for Bristol to invest in upgrading our public transport and active travel. This could unlock a huge range of benefits for our city – a network of safe, joined up bike lanes, cheaper and more frequent buses, in the longer term even funding to develop projects like a tram network.”
The Green Councillor also pointed out that any Workplace Parking Levy would require consultation beforehand and that Bristol would be able to include a range of exemptions to limit any harmful impact.
“The levy would charge employers for having company parking spaces. However, employers with less than 11 spaces – many of Bristol’s small businesses – could be exempt, as could spaces dedicated to electric vehicle charging and those for disabled employees. Spaces used for visitor parking and deliveries would also be left out of the scheme. Nottingham has a range of exemptions like these, including one for NHS workers, and Bristol would be able to go further if needed to ensure we protect lower-paid workers”
“It’s not right some people feel forced to drive to work to get in on time – we have a duty to improve our public transport in this city, so people have a real alternative to the car. This is precisely what the WPL would do.”
Ashley Green Councillor Tim Wye is seconding the motion coming to Full Council next week. He said:
“At the moment, Bristol’s transport system isn’t working for anybody – before the pandemic, the average rush-hour driver in Bristol spent over six days each year waiting in traffic. This congestion costs Bristol’s drivers over £1000 each year, but it also delays our buses, generates air pollution contributing to hundreds of deaths in our city each year, and emits greenhouse gases. A WPL would have a significant benefit for a minimal impact, taking cars off the roads and raising millions of pounds every year to be spent on the improvements our transport system needs to help people switch away from driving.”
“Time is critical – we’re already seeing traffic returning to pre-pandemic levels according to some data. It’s great that a Clean Air Zone will finally be coming next year, after years of delays, but on its own a CAZ won’t revolutionise our transport or reduce much traffic, it is just one of a raft of measures needed that work together to tackle our problems with air pollution and traffic. We need to start working on this as soon as possible to prevent Bristol turning back the clock to traffic chaos and pollution and unlock the transport upgrades our city needs – I hope the other parties will support it.”