Merton Diesel Drivers To Face Parking Permit Surcharge

Aim to help reduce the capital's air pollution

Diesel car drivers in Merton are set to pay £150 more for their parking permits as the borough council aims to play its part in tackling air pollution.

It covers all diesel vehicles that have a Resident, Business or Trade parking permit, with the introduction phased over a period of three-year period based on the following option:

£150 surcharge with a phased introduction in 2017/18/19/20 as follows;

£90 in 2017/18, £115 in 2018/19 and £150 in 2019/20.

At the same time, the parking permit charge for electric vehicles at a discounted rate of £25 per annum.

But there are fears that some of the 5,486 diesel drivers in the borough who are currently issued permits (34.9% of the total number of permits issued) might try to avoid the surcharge by parking outside their Controlled Parking Zone.

The council’s Cabinet, which agreed the plan, has decided to review the impact of the diesel surcharge for a period of two years, with a view to the introduction of a “comprehensive emissions-based parking scheme”.

The report presented to the council stated that Research by King’s College London has estimated that air pollution was responsible for up to 141,000 life years lost, or the equivalent of up to 9,400 deaths in London in 2010, as well as over 3,400 hospital admissions. The total economic cost associated with this was estimated at £3.7 billion.

The planned surcharge in Merton is higher than other London boroughs - it's £10 in Camden, £19 in Kensington & Chelsea and £96 in Islington.

The plan had earlier been subject to a ‘call in’ when Merton Park Independent Resident councillors had then argued that more notice of the surcharge should have been given to allow residents time to review what kind of cars they should buy or drive, with the plan delayed until 2018/19 at the earliest.

Merton Council’s cabinet member for street cleanliness and parking Councillor Ross Garrod said: "The environment and air quality where we live should be something we are all concerned about and must all take a certain amount of responsibility for. Bad air quality has been identified as a leading cause of ill health and premature death. We want to do our bit in Merton to encourage people to ensure they drive the least polluting vehicles possible."

But a spokesman from the Merton Park Ward Residents’ Association said: "By setting the surcharge at such a high level, residents may seek to avoid it by creating more off street parking rather than pay to park in their CPZ.  If the aim is to take diesel cars out of use, this measure could backfire badly – looking like a purely revenue-raising measure penalising captive residents."

And Merton Conservatives’ spokesman for Transport, Parking and Cleaner Streets, Councillor Daniel Holden said: "The principle that the polluter pays is absolutely right. We all appreciate the need to reduce air pollution in the borough which is why Conservative councillors have consistently proposed abolishing the parking permit charge for electric vehicles.

"However, Merton Labour’s proposal to hike up the cost of resident parking permits on diesel vehicles is a blunt instrument designed mainly to plug their own budget gap. There is little evidence it will actually help improve air quality in the borough and no guarantee that the extra money raised will be used for environmental or anti-pollution measures. Instead it will unfairly penalise diesel vehicle owners regardless of how much they actually drive their cars and hit hardest those on lower incomes who can’t necessarily afford to upgrade their cars.

"By rushing this in with no consultation and very little notice, Labour councillors are once again treating captive residents in the west of the borough as a cash cow to cover up their own financial mismanagement."

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January 15, 2017