High parking charges and strict restrictions on parking spaces in new housing developments are to be lifted in England under new government guidance.
But despite Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles announcing the end of the ‘war on motorists’, the talk of easing parking charges came just a day before the second rise in fuel costs in four days, with VAT rising to 20% today.
Parking charges and restrictions cut
The new guidance will call an end to limits on car space allocations for new homes and encourage local councils to set cheaper parking charges in town centres.
The move is a direct reversal of the measures introduced by Labour in 2001, which were designed to drive people out of their cars and towards using public transport.
Pickles said: ‘The government is calling off Whitehall’s war on the motorist by scrapping the national policy restricting residential parking spaces and instructing councils to push up charges’.
Local councils will now be free to set parking charges to attract shoppers to town centres, without any influence from Whitehall.
Decentralisation Minister Greg Clark added that the existing parking restrictions increased on-street parking congestion and caused a rise in aggressive parking enforcement.
Parking charges not expected to fall
But despite all this, parking charges aren’t expected to fall.
The Local Government Association commented on the new measures, saying: ‘Money raised from parking is retained locally for funding things like road maintenance, street lighting and parking enforcement. The motorists who pay for parking benefit from the things it pays for.
‘Councils can’t use parking as a revenue-raising exercise but they should have the freedom to set charges at a level which covers the cost of providing parking.’
Edmund King, the President of the Automotive Association, fears local councils will now be able to use the new parking charge freedom to hit motorists harder with parking prices.
He said: ‘Cash-strapped councils may see drivers as a soft touch and look to increase parking charges. We would advise them not to do this as it could provoke backlash’.
And Campaign for Better Transport voiced concerns that developers could use the parking charge freedom to bully local councils into allowing more car-focussed developments.
Is there really a ‘war on motorists’?
Motoring costs are being highlighted extensively this week with the VAT rise and increase of fuel duty sending petrol and diesel prices to near-record highs.
According to the AA, the average annual fuel costs for a family will increase by £104 in 2011, up to over £1,700 a year.
However, environment campaigners have warned the easing of restrictions on parking in towns and cities will increase congestion and the nation’s carbon footprint.
Transport campaigner for Friends of the Earth, Richard Dyer, said the lift on parking charges would deter the public to look for alternatives to car use, inevitably ramping up emissions.
‘The war on the motorist is a myth,’ he said.
‘Motoring has been getting cheaper compared to greener alternatives for many years, as the rail fair increases this week underlined.
‘Higher parking charges are what we need to encourage alternatives to car use, so it’s a great shame they are being abolished.’
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