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View from the chamber: Parking permit price hike is an outrage

PUBLISHED: 11:00 14 March 2019

Archant

It's rare for councillors to be inundated with as many residents emailing them about the same issue as Camden's councillors were last week.

On Friday, the council wrote to tens of thousands of residents telling them that their parking permits would now cost more, with charges for the average car increasing by 70 per cent. Residents were rightly outraged.

While Camden claims this is to improve air quality, that’s obviously not true, otherwise Camden would not also be increasing charges for electric and the lowest-emission non-electric cars by 30pc too.

It’s clearly not about parking availability, either, because the number of cars owned by residents is falling 2pc every year. Congestion is overwhelmingly caused by drivers from outside the borough, so why hit residents?

Instead, it’s just a revenue grab at motorists’ expense: something the High Court has expressly banned councils from doing.

Residents writing to councillors were perplexed: not just about why they were facing this new tax, but also how they could have their say, as the website link that residents were sent “to comment on these proposals” doesn’t actually give residents any way to comment!

If you want your say, please do let me and Camden know by emailing oliver.cooper@camden.gov.uk and transport planning officer brenda.busingye@camden.gov.uk. I’ve also launched a petition against the changes at camdenparking.com.

What’s most frustrating is there’s a lot that Camden could and should do instead of whacking residents with another tax. Take two examples that would really make a difference.

Many residents will know Westminster’s brilliant ParkRight phone app, which uses sensors in parking bays to show drivers in real time where there are empty spaces.

While people once took a staggering 12 minutes to find a space in the West End, it now takes an average of three, dramatically reducing inconvenience, congestion, and pollution. It has increased parking bay utilisation significantly and reduced evasion of payment by a quarter.

I’ve asked Camden to join forces with Westminster and integrate Camden into ParkRight, but Labour councillors initially dismissed this idea just because it happened to come from a Conservative-run council.

Camden needs to put a higher priority on supporting electric cars, too. Since 2016, the number of electric cars in Camden has doubled: greatly outstripping the number of electric car charge points. While Camden has issued one permit for each residents’ parking bay generally, there are now eight people with electric car permits for every electric charge point on the borough’s streets. This makes it almost impossible for residents to find on-street charging spaces: effectively limiting electric car ownership to those with drives or garages.

In February, Conservatives proposed installing 500 additional charge points this year, rather than the paltry 25 that Camden proposes borough-wide. This was sadly rejected, but we’ll keep making the case for supporting electric vehicles rather than taxing them.

Making better use of our scarce parking spaces and using a carrot rather than a stick to shift Camden towards low-emission vehicles is what a parking policy review should be about. Hitting residents with a new parking tax is not – and it’s important residents have their say.

Cllr Oliver Cooper is leader of the opposition Conservative Party.

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