A new residents’ parking permits scheme aimed at rewarding environmentally friendly car usage has been approved by Edinburgh City Council.
Under the new scheme, parking permit charges will be graded according to vehicle size and CO2 emissions levels.
The aim of the scheme is to cut the negative impact on the environment from CO2 emissions, as well as to provide more available resident parking spaces as the council currently sells more permits than there are available places.
Owners of the most polluting cars will pay more for their permits, and households with more than one vehicle would pay more for second permits.
Green Councillor Steve Burgess; who proposed the scheme, told The Journal: “The purpose of the charge is about pollution, because you can still buy a smaller car.
"It’s not an anti 4x4 measure, it’s not about taxing luxury cars – it’s about pollution and taxing pollution.
“In a way it is quite a radical thing and for the first time the Council is saying it’s not socially acceptable to pollute without bearing the consequences. What is important is the moral message of this – when you get the permit you’ll be charged double because of the pollution you’re causing to society.”
It is estimated that 66 per cent of the current permit holders will pay less, 14 per cent will see no change and 20 percent will pay more.
Disabled badge holders will still be eligible for an exempt permit which is free of charge.
The original proposal was passed unanimously by the council in 2007. The Transport, Infrastructure and Environment (TIE) committee decided on a public consultation, which took place from September to December 2008.
However, the consultation process over the scheme has been the target of criticism. 66,000 letters were allegedly distributed in the Park Green public consultation. A total of 1670 people responded, with 73 percent of respondents in favour overall, and 68 percent of parking permit holders in favour. 47 people wrote letters or emails of objection to the new scheme.
However, the councils’ Conservative group has criticised the scheme, claiming that the public consultation was not as extensive as has been claimed.
City centre Conservative councillor Joanna Mowat told The Journal: “I just don’t believe the 66,000 letters went anywhere. The Conservatives amended the motion – we said we were not happy with the consultation.
"The council report stated that the Park Green consultation had gone to every household in the controlled parking zone – we are very dubious it did. They did not fully consult with the community’s council in the area. We are very doubtful it was an effective consultation.”
A number of capital residents approached by The Journal said they did not receive any communication from the council. Marchmont businessman Michael Field told The Journal that he received no letter in last year’s Park Green consultation.
“The new scheme is ridiculous. We already pay for so much. The council never listens anyway," Mr Field said.
Lib Dem councillor Robert Aldridge has defended the consultation, stressing that a number of methods were used to gage public opinions.
He said: “It wasn't just the 66,000 leaflets which went out, but there were also opportunities to respond online and the matter was raised at, or I believe in some cases, immediately before the relevant neighbourhood partnership meetings.”
Mr Aldridge added: “In my experience those who are against something are usually more likely to respond than those in favour and the fact that the overwhelming majority of those who responded were in favour speaks volumes.
"It is difficult to know why some people did not respond. However during the next phase there will be a further statutory period of consultation so that anyone who does still have strong views can make them known during that period.”
Having gained approval from TIE committee, the council will commence the statutory "traffic regulation order" process in order to promote the change. This will take approximately nine months, following which the scheme will be implemented.
Under the current controlled parking scheme, charges only differ from zones – central zone residents pay £160 per annum, and peripheral and extended zone residents pay £80.
Anticipated losses with the new scheme are about £50,000 a year, but the council considers the environmental benefits to outweigh any negatives of revenue losses.
According to a council statement, one of the anticipated outcomes of the new scheme includes bringing about changes in the vehicles owned by city centre residents, in the hope that there will be a switch towards smaller cars. In addition, since smaller cars require less space, the council expects there to be an increase in parking capacity.
Under the new scheme there will be five categories for cars. Three of these will get a reduction in permit costs. The fourth will have no change in permit costs. Only residents whose cars fall into the fifth bandwidth will have to pay more for their parking permits.