Parking permit plan targets 'gas guzzlers'

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The Independent Online

Drivers of the most environmentally polluting cars could be charged three times more for residents' parking permits under a scheme proposed by a council.

Richmond upon Thames in south west London, one of Britain's most affluent boroughs, has drawn up a plan to introduce a sliding scale of charges for residents' parking permits.

The plans would mean people using electric cars would pay nothing for a residents' permit while others would qualify for a reduction of up to 50 per cent in the cost.

Owners of cars with the highest carbon dioxide emissions, such as 4x4s and certain types of people carriers, would be charged up to three times what they currently pay for their annual parking permits.

The plans also include proposals to charge housholds an extra 50 per cent for permits on second and subsequent cars on top of the adjusted payments for emissions.

Under the plans, the cost of parking the most polluting vehicles would rise from £100 to £300 a year.

The owner of two high-emission cars could pay £750 a year for residents' parking - £300 for the first and £450 for the second - compared to the £200 they pay now.

The proposals are due to be considered by the council's cabinet on 6 November and, if implemented, would be the first such scheme in the country.

Serge Lourie, leader of Richmond upon Thames's Liberal Democrat-controlled council, said: "Climate change is the single greatest challenge facing the world today.

"We can no longer bury our heads in the sand and pretend that it is not happening, or that dealing with it is up to somebody else.

"And Richmond upon Thames is one of the highest CO2-emitting boroughs in London.

"For too long, it has been seen as a problem that only central governments or international organisations could address. The truth is that we must all start acting now at local level."

Mr Lourie said the proposals would be considered on November 6 at the council cabinet.

He said the council was committed to consulting "widely" with residents and local businesses in the coming months.

Following consultation, he said, the council hoped to be able to implement the scheme by the New Year.

The scheme would introduce a sliding scale of charges for parking permits from band A, which would be free, to band G, which would charge three times the current cost of annual parking permits.

Band A would consist of electric cars while band G would be made up cars such as 4x4s, the Porsche 911 Carrera, the Jaguar X-type, Range Rover 4.4 litre and the Renault Espace people carrier.

A spokesman for the council denied the scheme was a money-making exercise.

He said: "We have calculated that it could make up to £1 million. However, as people, as we expect, switch to cars in the lower bands, it is obviously going to take revenue.

"This is not being done as a revenue-raising exercise, it is being done as an exercise in cutting down on CO2 emissions."

Former University Challenge host Bamber Gascoigne, who lives in Richmond, said he was "very keen" on the scheme.

Mr Gascoigne said he drove an electric G-Whiz car, which will be in the lowest band.

He said on BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We've got to do something about global warming. I think it's the sort of direction everybody is going to have to go. I think Richmond is the leader."

The scheme put forward by Richmond upon Thames council comes after London mayor Ken Livingstone proposed charging 4x4 owners £25 a day for the London congestion charge compared to the current £8.

In the summer a report from the House of Commons environmental audit committee recommended an annual vehicle excise duty of £1,800 for off-roaders - about nine times the current price.

Chancellor Gordon Brown's Budget this year also included a £210 top rate of road tax for the worst "gas guzzling" cars.