Should we charge for workplace parking?

Sarah HallBusiness leaders today said there could be merit in a debate to introduce workplace parking charges in Norwich - if the cash raised was guaranteed to be pumped into vital transport improvements.Sarah Hall

Business leaders today said there could be merit in a debate to introduce workplace parking charges in Norwich - if the cash raised was guaranteed to be pumped into vital transport improvements.

A workplace parking levy sees employers who have car parks hit with a levy on each car parking space they have, with the money raised going to local councils.

The scheme is being introduced in Nottingham, and Norwich City Council leaders were asked at a recent council meeting whether they would consider following suit here - responding that it would be 'political suicide'.

But Caroline Williams, chief executive of the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said alternative ways to raise cash for schemes such as the Northern Distributor Road needed to be looked at, especially with government funding for projects of that type likely to be squeezed in the years ahead.

She said: 'The time has come for an open and robust debate about what the business community will accept and what they won't to get the infrastructure we need.

'We need to see if it might be considered by the business community if there was a guarantee the money it raised would be ring-fenced for infrastructure improvements.'

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Nottingham City Council has agreed to bring in such a scheme, using powers made available to councils under the Transport Act 2000, and will charge companies �253 per year for each parking space.

That council has said all money raised from the levy will be pumped back into funding better public transport to reduce congestion in Nottingham.

However Brian Morrey, the city council's executive member for sustainable city development, said: 'While workplace parking charges may be a way forward in an ideal world where actions do not have consequences, it would be an act of political suicide to even contemplate it in our imperfect world.

'This Labour administration has no intention of introducing such a charge or even discussing it. Many years ago, when on-street charges were being discussed, this very idea was looked into to see if it was feasible.

'The conclusion was that, unless the whole of Norfolk did the same thing, it would be devastating to the economy of Norwich, as businesses would just migrate to the areas in Norfolk which did not have charges, like Broadland Business Park.'

Adrian Gunson, cabinet member for planning and transportation at Norfolk County Council, said he would rather encourage people to use public transport, such as Park and Ride and rail routes such as the Bittern line.

He said: 'The administration's view is that there is no place in Norfolk for workplace parking charges. It is just another form of taxation, which is the last thing we want.'

However, Rupert Read, city councillor for Wensum ward, and transport spokesman for the Green group, said: 'It is clear to everyone that public transport in Norwich needs to be drastically improved.

'In the long term it is possible that a solution like workplace parking charges could provide the money which enables that to happen. Such a scheme would only affect large businesses in Norwich and not the ordinary individual.'

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