PetrolPrices recently wondered, as we’ve looked at the prices across the country for fuel many times, what the difference in cost across the country was like for parking. We’ve written about parking before and many people have mentioned to us the cost of parking and how ridiculous it can be. With this in mind, we set out to document the maximum cost of parking per hour of all council owned car parks and on-street parking across England.

Motorists are continually seen as the target for local authorities and Government that need propping up; a number of councils are facing increasing cuts to their budgets, particularly Social Care, and as recently as March, Northampton County Council effectively stated they were bankrupt, and other councils are close to following them. The Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) has stated that as many as half of the local councils could raise their parking charges in the next few months, by as much as 45%, and Sunday charges haven’t been ruled out.

London problems

The City of London has some of the highest property prices in Europe per metre2, analysts tell us that space is a commodity, and as such, should be paid for at the market rate to make use of it. Councils tell us that it is part of the congestion charge effect, and they’re raising prices to combat the levels of air pollution created by cars. Motorists will tell you that finding a space in London isn’t easy, and trying to avoid paying additional charges after Congestion and T-Charge means further driving, more congestion and more pollution.

Up until 2004, there were strict requirements for parking space provisions for any new build in London, meaning that the city could only grow or develop as the space warranted; no parking provision, no building. Once those regulations were abolished, the average parking space ratio for residential housing blocks fell from 1.1 spaces to 0.6, thereby putting a greater emphasis and strain on the on-street and council owned parking facilities.

If the analysts are correct, and we should pay market value for on-street space, then we’re paying for exactly that – the space. If the space is occupied, it can’t be used, so why do certain vehicles have to pay up to 50% more for the space, whilst others get it free? (Westminster introduced a ‘D-Charge’ in which pre-2015 diesel vehicles pay a flat 50% extra). A diesel car is as pollution-free as the most modern and cleanest of the ULE vehicles when they’re parked.

£8 per hour for diesels

The London Borough of Islington charges a standard rate of £6 per hour for parking, although diesel drivers face a further surcharge of £2 per hour, regardless of how modern the diesel is. Without the diesel surcharge, the City of Westminster tops the list with a fee of £7.26 per hour.

Compare that to the district of Blaby in Leicestershire, parking charges are a maximum of £0.15 per hour, or the thirty plus areas that still offer free parking. At least 50 of the UK councils make zero profit from parking charges, some even run at a loss to help support trade and businesses in the local area.

The top 10 most expensive places were:

  1. Islington – £6 + £2 diesel charge
  2. Westminster – £7.26
  3. Camden – £5.55
  4. Kensington and Chelsea – £4.90
  5. Tower Hamlets – £4.60
  6. Oxford – £4.50
  7. Nottingham – £4.40
  8. Thanet – £4.00
  9. St Edmundsbury – £4.00
  10. Lambeth – £4.00

Data shows the maximum cost per hour for either on-street or off-street parking in a council charged area. This data does not take in private car parks in any town.

It is also worth noting that the Brighton and Hove also charged a maximum of £4 an hour.

Cheaper for green vehicles

A number of cities have recently introduced free parking for the drivers of green vehicles, and some car park operators are looking to slash fees by 20% for the same, and yet given that an electric or hybrid vehicle has the same footprint, weight and capacity to occupy a parking space as a regular vehicle, and therefore the same ‘wear & tear’ properties, surely they should be paying the same? Electric vehicles by their very nature are expensive, whilst they now may be a viable alternative for the fossil-fuelled vehicles, that’s only the case if the consumer can afford to take that choice; penalising drivers for not being able to afford a newer and more expensive car is unjust.

Forcing the motorist from the city centres will have further impact; high street shopping is already on the decline – a 2.2% drop in September 2017 for the year, although December 2017 saw that figure rise to 3.5%, analysts tell us that the drop is due to internet shopping, yet out-of-town retail parks continue to enjoy year on year growth. Could high parking charges and added congestion charges, T-Charges, ULEZs be having an impact on the high street?

Motorists targeted as cash cows

Could these staggeringly high parking charges be part of a ‘make hay whilst the sun shines’ strategy by the local authorities? With experts predicting that the high street will evolve into a place of leisure with bars, clubs, restaurants etc, the traffic and congestion problem (and therefore, the pollution problem) will lessen.

Treating the motorist as a simple but effective means to make short-term money is a near-sighted policy and will only result in a catch-22 situation; towns will lose footfall, leading to loss of business, reduced revenue stream for any local authority (rents, rates and additional spend), increased expenditure on public transport infrastructure, and a need to find the lost revenue from other avenues – the ‘car’ will be a no-go zone thanks to being effectively forced off the road. And yet still they continue to add stealth taxes on every aspect of car ownership.

As one of the biggest resources to help the motorist, PetrolPrices would like to see an investigation into the policy decisions made regarding parking charges and pricing, with particular respect to geographic variations, and justifiable amounts; why does providing a single parking space in London cost 50 times more than elsewhere in the country? Particularly when it’s on-street parking rather than a dedicated facility.

What’s the parking cost like near you? How do you overcome the cost of parking? Let us know below

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