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Nottingham pushes parking levy to ease congestion

Nottingham City Council will opt for a Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) to ease congestion in the city, and use the new funding stream to extend its tram system.

Councillors yesterday backed the scheme, which must now be approved by secretary of state Ruth Kelly, and should begin in 2010. Nottingham hope to raise £5.6M in 2010, rising to £11.3M in 2015.

The council now wants to explore the possibility of extending the scheme to Derby and Leicester, and this could form the basis of a Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) application in the future, using the levy as an alternative to congestion charging.

A recent report commissioned by Nottingham City Council proposed using road user charging to ease congestion. Consultants Atkins estimate that congestion costs the East Midlands economy £935M every year.

Under the scheme, employers with 10 or more parking spaces would be liable to pay the charge, of £185 per space per year in 2010, rising to £350 in 2014.

According to Councillor Jon Collins, "The recent report on the potential of road pricing by the 6Cs [three cities and three counties of Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, Derby, Derbyshire, Leicester and Leicestershire] was very interesting, it was sensible to conduct that study, but ultimately it fails to convince us – we still believe that a Levy will bring congestion benefits in a way that is more simple, fair and better targeted at commuters than Road User Charging.

"We've always made it explicitly clear that our preference is for Nottingham City Council to pursue a Workplace Parking Levy. I'm hoping that Leicester City Council and Derby City Council will be interested in exploring a combined approach to implementing a joint Levy scheme. We'll do everything we can to support them and share our learning.

"I'm interested in providing businesses and residents with clear direction and the Levy is the way forward. We are not contemplating a local RUC. Everyday RUC would cost drivers more than twice as much as a Levy and it would cost much more than the Levy to implement.

"The main cause of congestion is the commuters who are driving to work. A Levy targets the commuters without charging pensioners, tourists, shoppers, unemployed and disabled people or families ferrying kids around," he said.

Nottingham will continue with its scheme regardless of whether Derby and Leicester decide to join. But, the three authorities will explore how a Levy scheme could work across the three cities and what the next steps would be. Together, the councils could develop a joint bid to the Government's Transport Innovation Fund (TIF), for funding for a joint WPL scheme.

Workplace Parking Levy would provide funding to:

- Extend the successful NET tram system south and west of the city.
- Introduce more Link bus services and the funding needed to continue to run the existing popular Link buses which serve areas not covered by commercial public transport operators
- Transform Nottingham Station into a 'Hub' with improved connections to buses and trams and expanded passenger facilities – turning it into one of the top European transport interchanges
- Increase support and advice to businesses for travel planning and parking management.

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