ALLIANCE OF BRITISH DRIVERS London Region Home #Achieve

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.  The press release issued by the Association of British Drivers 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. 

The Association of British Drivers (ABD) suggests that Richmond Council has missed the point. “We believe that charging people for the privilege of parking outside their houses is wrong in any case. To charge them more simply for owning a larger car is doubly so,” says Mark McArthur-Christie, the ABD’s Director of Policy.  The ABD goes on to explain that the most energy is used when a car is manufactured and when it is scrapped, not when it is driven or parked.  If Richmond’s proposal is implemented, people are more likely to get rid of larger, older cars with many years life left – causing more pollution than if the cars had simply been driven. 

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%. A copy of the full response by the ABD to this consultation can be seen here: www.freedomfordrivers.org/Richmond_Permit_Parking_Consultation.pdf.

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ABD Campaign  

The ABD London Region mounted a campaign to defeat these proposals and we circulated over 7,000 leaflets to residents in permit parking zones within the borough of Richmond. There were several hundred responses. Several new ABD members joined us as a result. 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:

ABD members 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.  ABD members distributed some 7000 leaflets encouraging residents to object to the proposals, which got a good response (a copy of the leaflet used is present here:  Leaflet ).

The following is an extract from a note sent to respondents to the ABD leaflet that gave the current position.  

“As most recipients of this letter will know, Richmond Liberal Democrat councillors voted to proceed with the plans for the CO2 based permit parking on the 29th January.

Although there were some last minute changes to the proposals, apparently to ensure that it is not "revenue raising" (ie. will not produce total charges higher than the existing arrangements, other than to take account of inflation), councillors chose to ignore the views of the residents of Richmond, and particularly those who reside in permit parking zones. 

Attached is the three minute speech made by Roger Lawson at the council meeting, which spells out the arguments in essence. Other members of the public who spoke, and Conservative councillors, generally made similar points. 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. Since that meeting local residents have considered the issue of possible legal action and that is still being examined. Rod Kebble of RRAPPET is also pursuing a complaint via the office of the Local Government Ombudsman.  

But it is possible that the only way to get this scheme revoked might be when the Liberal Democrats next come up for re-election in a couple of years time, and I would hope that all Richmond residents remember what happened to democracy in the borough when the Liberal Democrats adopted their policies on this issue. Also don’t forget to ensure that other political parties make it an election issue at that time.  Of course we might be lucky and find that there is a bye-election in the meantime at which you can express your views, but otherwise you just have to make sure you don’t forget about this issue. Also it is possible that Richmond Liberal Democrats might change their policies in due course – in other London boroughs their views on this issue are different.  

Thanks to everyone for supporting opposition to these proposals to date - democracy should not be undermined in this way, and common sense should prevail as opposed to environmental hysteria as demonstrated by the Liberal Democrats.  

Unfortunately this example in Richmond is typical of the irrational attacks and unreasonable levels of taxation on car users. This is just one of the many campaigns by the Association of British Drivers (ABD) to protect your interests against such policies which tend to be promoted by car haters.  

But we need your help to fight these kinds of campaigns and get more rational policies adopted by both central and local government. The way you can do this best is to become a member of the ABD.”  

Speech at Richmond Council Meeting on 29/1/2007

Firstly let me declare that I have no financial interest in this matter. I don’t live in a permit parking zone, and in fact I don’t even live in Richmond. But I do represent  the London region of the Association of British Drivers which supports ordinary motorists.

You may be wondering why the ABD has bothered to interfere in this local matter. Well the answer is simple. Because when we saw the initial press release from the council on these proposals, we instantly knew someone was suffering from “environmental hysteria”. It said: “By implementing a scheme to reduce CO2 emissions locally, Richmond upon Thames can make a positive impact on climate change nationally and globally”.  A totally misleading statement and a gross exaggeration.  

It also became clear that nobody had bothered to calculate the likely impact in terms of actual CO2 reduction before council staff, and Councillor Lourie, started to promote the wonders of this scheme. But as pointed out by Mr Kebble last week, and confirmed by the councils own environmental expert, Mr Coates, the actual reduction might be a fall of 0.2% in Richmond.  In other words an imperceptible change.  

There are only four questions councillors should ask about this proposal.  

Will it significantly reduce CO2 levels? The answer is no.

Will it be legal? Questionable..

Is it fair to enforce a CO2 tax on permit parking holders, when other residents will not be so taxed – in my view, no.

Has it been democratically introduced?

The answer to the last question is definitely no. From the first misleading statement, through the whole consultation process, it has been grossly mishandled.  

The survey form, which was only sent to a small proportion of residents and not those mainly affected, is a classic of how to obtain the right answer by asking leading questions. Even the title links climate change to car parking. But of course residents were not informed of the true benefit of this proposal, which is negligible. 

The council has also deliberately downplayed the one thousand four hundred objection letters and emails they received on this matter, and also ignored the evidence of their own eyes and ears in respect of the public who turned out for last weeks meeting.. If you proceed to vote for this proposal, without further and proper consultation, then you are no doubt destroying the spirit of democracy in this borough. To quote from a Liberal Democrat councilor in Haringey on the same subject – “what is being proposed is just gesture politics”. Just empty and futile gestures. 

Thank you, Roger Lawson

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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 the ABD 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.

One ABD member has commented that “We visited friends in central Richmond recently - the cost for a max of 4 hours pay and display parking regardless of vehicle type was £12” which shows how far the LibDem policies had gone.