This week the SNP, Greens and Lib-Dems forced City of Edinburgh Council to bring forward a Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) plan.
The SNP/Greens 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 focused 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 Edinburgh Park and Fairmilehead, where WPL may generate anti-social displacement parking. Why would staff pay £500 per year to park at the Scottish Water (say) site in Fairmilehead, when you can park in adjacent streets for free?
The SNP/Greens have also not addressed the concerns of Trade Unions regarding the impact that their indiscriminate WPL would have on low paid workers working anti-social hours with no access to public transport.
Nottingham introduced the UK’s only WPL in 2011, but traffic volume has grown faster (10%) there over the past decade or so since then than in Edinburgh (7%). It is clear that the WPL has generated cash in Nottingham, but it’s impact on congestion is less clear. Indeed, the focus of the proposal SNP/Green appears to be taxing (and thereby gentrifying) unwanted behaviours (rather than ending them) to help mitigate SNP/Green Government cuts – this is incompatible with Edinburgh’s commitment (and moral duty) to tackle the climate emergency.
Maybe what was right for Nottingham in 2011, is not right for Edinburgh today. As Transport Convener I prefer to look to cities like Paris, where the politicians are working with residents to reduce traffic volume by investing in public and active transport. They don’t simply tax unwanted traffic, they provide a sustainable alternative – this plan will result in 70,000 parking spaces being unneeded. I offered the SNP/Greens Paris as a destination, but they chose Nottingham.
I am a democrat, so I must respect the fact the the majority of Councillors backed the SNP/Green plan. Nonetheless, before the end of 2022 I hope to present Labour’s 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. We will take Edinburgh forward.