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Consultation on emission-based parking charges: background

Introduction

The principle of emission-based charging is that the less polluting your vehicle is, the less you pay, and the more polluting, the more you pay.

There are very few direct levers available to stimulate a change in driver behaviour, and we believe that the rationale for reviewing emission charging is about giving people the right nudge and taking the opportunity to make better, less damaging choices such as walking and cycling, but if that is not possible which are more environmentally vehicle friendly is used where possible.

We are not prepared to ignore our responsibilities to deliver cleaner local air at a time when the current situation has been described as a public health and climate emergency.

Emission charges as part of a strategic approach to sustainable transport

The proposal for emission-based parking charges seeks to further strengthen the approach to parking management, particularly by addressing the vehicular emissions that contribute towards climate change and poor air quality. Further justification is given below setting out why we are taking this action to address climate change, poor air quality and public health.

The management of parking makes a vital contribution towards our strategic transport objectives, which include:

  • a reduction in the vehicular emissions that contribute to climate change and poor air quality
  • improved public health through increased use of active travel modes
  • a reduction in traffic congestion and obstructions caused by parked vehicles
  • ensuring road safety for all users
  • good accessibility to employment, education and key services for all residents

Our strategic transport objectives and policies are set out in our Sustainable Transport Strategy (Local Implementation Plan 3), Health and Wellbeing Strategy, Air Quality Action Plan, and the Climate Strategy and Action Plan. Merton's strategic transport approach is supported by national and regional strategies, particularly the Mayor's Transport Strategy.

To achieve the strategic transport objectives we will seek to introduce policies that encourage a reduction in journeys, particularly by car and support the use of sustainable transport modes including walking, cycling and public transport. Where vehicle use is necessary we will introduce polices to encourage and support a switch to lower emissions vehicles.

We have already introduced a range of measures to support sustainable travel modes including:

Benefits

The main benefits of this proposal are:

  • Increase in uptake of sustainable and active transport methods – such as increased use of public transport, cycling and walking.
  • Improvement in public health outcomes – by changing to cycling and walking there could be a reduction in obesity levels, respiratory and cardiovascular disease and for example diabetes. In addition, reducing health inequalities throughout Merton.
  • Reduction in air pollution and improved air quality – less use of cars in and throughout the borough will reduce harmful emissions and consequently air quality will improve.
  • Reduced car ownership - and shift from higher to lower emission vehicles and increase in car clubs, which will contribute to a reduction in Merton's carbon footprint.

The above are the main benefits and there are also associated benefits as follows:

  • Improved traffic flow and congestion
  • Improved road safety – making Merton a safer place
  • Protection of spaces for dedicated users and greater vehicle turnover in paid spaces

Ultra-low emission charging– can it make a difference?

Merton is proposing a ULEZ (Ultra-Low Emission Zone) based charging system which will help complement the good work being done by Transport for London (TfL) and many other London boroughs. Part of Merton's emission-based charging proposal is based on the TfL ULEZ model which has had a significant effect on vehicle emissions recently and it is estimated that there will be a 20 per cent reduction in NOx emissions London-wide in 2020.

The information below shows the success the ULEZ has had in London. Boroughs including Merton will work with TfL to continue to develop and implement low emission transport proposals.

Success of low emission based charging polices

Over a relatively short period of time, between February 2017 and September 2019, there was a large reduction in the number of older, more polluting, noncompliant vehicles detected in the zone, equating to a 65 per cent reduction. There was an also an 89 per cent increase in the proportion of vehicles detected in the central zone that were compliant.

Key findings from the first six months of operation are:

  • After the first six months of operation the average compliance rate with the ULEZ standards was 77 per cent in a 24-hour period.
  • Trend analysis shows that, for the period July to September 2019, NO2 concentrations at roadside locations in central London were on average 24 ugm-3 lower, equating to a reduction of 29 per cent, compared to a scenario where there was no ULEZ.
  • None of the air quality monitoring stations located on ULEZ boundary roads have measured an increase in NO2 concentrations since the introduction of the
    ULEZ.
  • From March to September 2019, there was a large reduction in the number of older, more polluting, non-compliant vehicles detected in the zone: some
    13,500 fewer on an average day, a reduction of 38 per cent in congestion charging hours.
  • There was a 34% decrease in the proportion of vehicles in the central
    zone that were non-compliant from March 2019 to September 2019 in congestion charging hours.

Climate change

Transport is a major source of the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute towards climate change. The use of petrol and diesel vehicles in the borough makes up 19% of Merton's carbon emissions as a result of the 600 million kilometres driven in Merton each year.

In July 2019, we agreed to work towards net-zero carbon emissions from the borough by 2050 and have developed a Climate Strategy and Action Plan which is due to be approved in 2020. The strategy includes an action to consult on emission-based parking charges to discourage the use of higher polluting vehicles by 2020/21, so this is one of the main reasons for developing the current proposals.

Currently only around 1000 vehicles registered in Merton are ultra-low emission (approximately 1.2% of the total number of vehicles). In order to meet the net zero target it will be necessary for us to encourage and support a greater shift to ultra-low emission vehicles including through measures such as electric vehicle charging points. We have already introduced a flat fee of only £20 per year for ultra-low emission vehicles for all parking permits and season tickets and this will remain in place under the current proposals.

Air quality

Air pollution is recognised as a major contributor to poor health, with more than 9,000 premature deaths attributed to poor air quality in London. Exposure to poor air quality is associated with a range of cardiovascular, respiratory and cerebrovascular health effects. Air pollution is associated with a number of adverse health impacts; it is recognised as a contributing factor in the onset of heart disease and cancer, and studies suggest it may be associated with cognitive ageing. Air pollution particularly affects the most vulnerable in society: children, older people, and anyone with long term health conditions. 6.5% of mortality in Merton is attributable to the harm caused by poor air quality, equivalent to around 75 deaths every year.

We know that vehicular emissions of Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and Particulate Matter (PM) from road traffic is a major contributor to poor air quality. In Merton, transport emissions account for approximately 60% of emissions of Nitrogen Dioxide, which has been shown to have a serious detrimental impact on health. 

The Mayor of London's key ambition is for London to have the best air quality of any major global city. He wants the quickest progress to be made in the most polluted places, benefitting the people most vulnerable to the effects of air pollution. 

Merton consulted on and has adopted a new Air Quality Action Plan in 2018 that is ambitious in its aims and demonstrates that we as an authority will use all of the powers available to tackle toxic air in the borough. Specifically, Action 32 contained within the AQAP states that there would be a review of the impact of our diesel levy* and consider a review of parking and charges to help reduce combustion engine vehicle use and the consequent emission. 

Public health

Merton's Health and Wellbeing Strategy, sets out a vision to protect and improve physical and mental health outcomes for the whole population in Merton throughout the life course, and to reduce health inequalities. Enabling residents to choose active travel options more often is one way to improve public health outcomes.

In Merton, the level of physical activity has dropped in recent years and Department for Transport statistics for 2016/17 show the proportion of adults doing any walking or cycling once a week has declined since 2015/16. In Merton, one in five children entering reception are overweight or obese and this increases to one in three children leaving primary school in Year 6.

Annual Public Health Report 2018

Active travel, such as walking and cycling, is one of the easiest ways to exercise because it provides an opportunity to integrate regular activity into daily journeys. According to the British Medical Association 30 minutes of moderate exercise four to five days a week can halve the risk of a heart attack. If every Londoner walked or cycled for 20 minutes each day this would save the NHS £1.7 bn in treatment costs over 25 years.

Electric vehicles

A low price permit of only £20 per year is retained for all zero emission vehicles.

We will be delivering a network of residential electric vehicle charging points for those residents without off-street parking.

Merton has also recognised the growing infrastructure for electric charging points. In 2017, Merton had 21 charging points at nine locations; two years on these numbers have increased by 400% to 106 charging points across 41 locations throughout the borough. This is ahead of the London and national average per head of population. Merton plans to increase to 143 charging points across 62 locations throughout the borough during 2019/20.

A further 41 charge points are expected to be delivered by early 2020, including (37 x 7kw) Source charge points, 2 x 22kw Source charge points and 2 x 50kw rapid charge stations (provider unknown at this stage).

This will bring Merton's total to 147 or 0.74 electric vehicle charge points per 1,000 population. Please note that Rapid and 22kw chargers are time limited to 2 hours to encourage turnover.

Car clubs

Car clubs can provide you with a safer, cleaner and cheaper way of accessing a vehicle when you need one, without all the cost or hassle of owning one yourself. Merton is aiming to ensure that every resident has access to car club vehicles. You can find car club cars parked on-street throughout Merton.

Most members hire cars for leisure purposes, while only a small minority use car clubs for commuting. They offer a convenient and affordable service, while at the same time reducing overall car usage – which can help reduce traffic congestion and air pollution.

School Neighbourhood Approach Pilot

Example of healthy places and the role parking services can play: Parking Services are already working jointly with Public Health on the School Neighbourhood Approach Pilot (SNAP). This pilot recognises that there is not one solution to complex challenges and that many different government departments hold the levers to improving the urban environment and therefore the public's health. The pilot involves identifying the potential the council has to improve the urban environment in the 400 metres around a school, and then working with a selected school and local people and business to take action on issues that matter to them, such as air quality and a healthy environment, with the ultimate aim of reducing health inequalities.

We need to consider what we can do as a borough to 'make the healthy choice the easy choice', to improve public services and encourage residents to choose active travel options more often, and to reduce congestion and improve air quality.

Measuring the success of our transport policies

We will measure a range of key indicators to assess progress in our transport objectives including:

  • Investment in sustainable transport infrastructure
  • Number of car club vehicles in the borough
  • Number of additional electric charging bays
  • Number of additional cycle parking spaces
  • Reduction in number of car journeys is the borough
  • Increase in number of walking journeys in the borough
  • Increase in number of cycling journeys in the borough
  • Improved air quality
  • Change of vehicle ownership type
  • Reduction in car ownership
  • Reduction in emissions

Working with other organisations

We are not doing this is on our own. These proposals align with regional and national strategies that aim to improving the public's health and combating air pollution and climate change.

Mayor's Transport Strategy

In conjunction with the Mayors Transport Strategy, which is produced by Transport for London, a key theme is the 'The Healthy Streets Approach'. This includes the ambitious targets of ensuring that all Londoners get the 20 minutes of exercise needed each day to be considered 'healthy' from their transport choice alone and; that 80% of trips are undertaken by walking, cycling or public transport, both by 2041. Achieving these goals will require fundamental changes to the mobility fabric of London.

Mayor's Health Inequalities Strategy

This includes ambitions for London's air quality to improve, and for fewer Londoners to be exposed to harmful pollution, particularly in priority areas such as schools. It also includes ambitions for the planning system to adopt the Healthy Streets Approach to make it easier for people to walk and cycle in streets.

The report states: "Poor air quality is linked to many health problems including lung and heart diseases and is particularly harmful to the lungs of young children. People in deprived areas are more likely to be exposed to poor air quality and that exposure is also more likely to result in poor health. Worryingly over 400 London primary schools are in areas with toxic air, with four-fifths of these in the most deprived areas."

London Councils

Another key partner 'London Councils' also produced in 2018 a comprehensive policy report called 'Benefits of Parking Management in London August 2018' and again addressed many of these key principles.

Benefits of Parking Management in London - August 2018

The report states: "The private car is widely accepted to be the least sustainable mode of travel. This is principally because it is more polluting and takes up more space per user than every other mainstream mode of surface transport.

"Limiting car use and therefore restricting the demand for parking is not only good for the economy and the environment, there is increasing evidence that alternative forms of travel make us happier and healthier too."

Parking income

The main aim of the emission-based charging proposals is to contribute towards the transport objectives of improving air quality, tackling climate change and addressing public health. When setting charges, local authorities must focus on how the charges will contribute to delivering our traffic management and key sustainability objectives. Any funds raised from parking revenues must, by law, be reinvested only into the roads, transport and environmental projects. Councils are not permitted to use parking charges solely to raise income.

£9.5m of our parking income is currently used to contribute to the Freedom Pass managed by Transport for London. In addition, money from parking charges contributes to carriageway and footway maintenance, highway works such as potholes and winter gritting, the design and management of controlled parking zones and other schemes such as road safety and traffic and parking management.

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