Workplace Parking Levy, and Edinburgh’s Addiction to Motoring Income.

The active travel element of the Leith Walk section of the Trams to Newhaven project has been the subject of much discussion. The issue, of course, is that by trying to please everyone nobody is happy. The same is certainly true of the Picardy Place “gyratory”.

It feels like the SNP is making the same mistake with their Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) proposals. Set aside for one moment the fact that Edinburgh does not have the Non-Statutory Guidance needed to implement a Workplace Parking Levy, and look at the content of the proposal and the comments of SNP Councillors in the media regarding their WPL proposals.

They plan on setting the minimum car park size at 50 for inclusion in the WPL – this would exclude a significant number of businesses from the plan, particularly in the city centre where air quality is an issue, and where congestion impacts significantly on the wellbeing of residents and public transport transit times.

Existing Council modelling of WPL had focussed on a minimum car park size of 11 and suggested income would be £9m pa, but SNP Councillors suggest that excluding a significant number of spaces from  WPL by raising the minimum size to 50 will generate £10m. This simply is not credible.

The proposal takes no account of the concerns of residents living in communities adjacent to business areas such, as the Gyle, where WPL may generate anti-social displacement parking.  It is notable that in Nottingham 80% of employers pass the levy to staff (meaning VAT also applies) and that Trade Unions are concerned regarding the impact that an indiscriminate  WPL would have on low paid workers working anti-social hours with no access to public transport.

Indeed, the focus of the proposal appears to be taxing (and thereby gentrifying) unwanted behaviours (rather than ending them) – this is incompatible with Edinburgh’s commitment to tackle the climate emergency.

Instead, Edinburgh’s new administration plans to follow Paris and end our capital’s addiction to parking income.

Before the end of 2022 we will present our vision for the biggest expansion in public transport our capital has seen this century – inc tram, bus lanes and park & ride schemes. We will listen to residents on this issue, and work with them and surrounding local authorities to transform and decarbonise the transportation system in our capital.

This will also be an opportunity to invest in active transport, so we will learn any lessons from the Trams to Newhaven active travel scheme which has been the subject of international media attention.

This investment in public transport is of national importance, so we hope to work in close partnership with the Scottish Government to both develop the full business case, and fund the project. In is not our intention to deliver this scheme via PFI (as has been suggested for the Glasgow Metro), but to respect Edinburgh’s culture of retaining public transport in public ownership.

The Scottish Government has made a clear “commitment” to reducing car-kilometres by 20% (compared to 2019  levels) by 2030 and we will contribute to this with a 30%  target. Linked to this Edinburgh also has a clear commitment  to significantly increase the number of people using public and active travel, both to and within Edinburgh.

As we work through this transition, Edinburgh’s parking needs will change significantly. Parking, of course, is a key part of any transport system, but poorly managing it leads to higher levels of trip generation and congestion.

We will comprehensively  review the scale and distribution of on-street and off-street public and private parking in Edinburgh in the context of City Plan 2030, and model how parking demand will change if our capital is to meet its Net Zero and Modal Shift targets.

We will work with key stakeholders, just as Paris is, to develop a comprehensive plan to manage parking availability as public and active transport capacity expands.  As commuters switch to public transport our focus will be providing the parking needed for residents and businesses, and people with disabilities.

In the coming years our focus will be on working with residents and businesses as we journey through this transition. This collaborative working will only improve our plans, but I am sure none of us would expect us to compromise on our shared determination to respond to the climate emergency.

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