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RICHMOND PERMIT PARKING

This page covers the campaign against the Emission Based Permit Parking scheme introduced by the London Borough of Richmond in 2007 (see bottom of page for the ultimate success of this campaign).

This article was published in Jan 2007:

The London Borough of Richmond have recently announced major increases in parking charges (they expect to collect at least £1million more). One additional element in their proposals is to charge permit parking scheme users based on the CO2 emissions of their vehicles. This could result in some residents paying as much as £300 per year, instead of £100.  A press release said the following:  

“Richmond’s New Parking Charges Miss the Point, says drivers’ group. Richmond council has hit the headlines today by announcing they will charge residents more to park outside their homes if they own ‘gas guzzling’ cars.  The new tax is an attempt to reduce CO2 emissions. 

In any case, targeting a small minority of car users will not make any significant impact on CO2 emissions. One of the most interesting recent statements from Transport for London in their submissions on the Thames Gateway Bridge inquiry was the following statement: “Private cars constitute only 10% of total UK CO2 emissions, and the position appears to be both under control and improving, largely due to technology”. If you assume only 10% of cars are “gas guzzlers” and their owners all moved to smaller cars (with about half the CO2 emissions), then the net impact will be 0.5% of CO2 emitted in Richmond. But of course most of them will not, and many cars are parked off the street so the net impact will clearly be imperceptible.  

These charges are obviously not about improving emissions, but simply about raising more money for hard pressed council budgets from local residents.”

The council’s consultation document provided little information on the likely impact of these proposals which in reality were likely to reduce CO2 emissions by less than 0.25%.

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Campaign  

We mounted a campaign to defeat these proposals and circulated over 7,000 leaflets to residents in permit parking zones within the borough of Richmond. There were several hundred responses. Liberal Democrat councillors who thought up this idea got a lot more objections than they expected.

Press coverage was also strongly in opposition and it is astonishing to see the numbers and type of people who supported our stance – even people who don’t own cars! There was a general consensus that the proposals were “gesture politics” of the worst kind and “green policies” were being used to extract more money from impoverished motorists.

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This article was published in March 2007 about the subsequent public meeting at the council:

Our supporters in London have been campaigning against the proposed implementation of changes to permit parking charges in the London Borough of Richmond. The new charges will be based on the CO2 emissions of the vehicle – low emission vehicles will pay less and those in the highest band will pay three times as much. There is also a much higher charge for a second vehicle.

Needless to say that there was widespread consternation among residents who live in permit parking zones when these proposals were first announced. Even non car owners and people with a strong commitment to environmental issues thought the proposals were a nonsense.  Supporters distributed some 7000 leaflets encouraging residents to object to the proposals, which got a good response. Roger Lawson and other members of the public spoke against the proposals at a council meeting. One particularly interesting speaker was Michael Williams, a market research expert, who confirmed that in his view the council's survey form was a good example of bad survey design as it was clearly designed to bias the answer.

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Richmond Election Result (Article published in June 2010).

One of the most gratifying results in the London Council elections, at least to your editor, was the loss of the London Borough of Richmond to the Conservatives by the Liberal Democrats.

The Liberal Democrats in Richmond adopted many “anti-car” policies, and when they proposed a “CO2-based” permit parking charge we joined in the democratic opposition to it. There was widespread public revolt which culminated in a public meeting organised by the council where almost all the audience was against it.

The local Conservative manifesto included an “End to the war on high streets, adopt fair parking policies and scrap failed CPZ tax surcharge on parking permits” and they have subsequently announced they will be scrapping this scheme.

Even more satisfying was the eviction of former LibDem Council Leader Serge Lourie who lost his seat by just 6 votes. He did not seem to believe in democracy (at least in terms of the public getting what they wanted) from his handling of the affair.

Conservatives also won two local parliamentary seats from the Liberal Democrats. Of course there may have been other factors at work in these successes but it shows how local democracy does work when issues which personally affect them are presented to the voters in the right way.