Business leader hits out at Cambridge WPL scheme
28 June 2016
Author: Daniel Puddicombe
Cambridgeshire's Chamber of Commerce has hit out at the City Council's plans to introduce a workplace parking levy.
Cambridge's WPL scheme is part of an eight-point anti-congestion plan rubber-stamped by the council's transport bosses earlier this month, and is due to be scrutinised by the public between July and October, with the first schemes planned to be implemented from next spring.
The levy would charge firms for the number of parking spaces they own above a threshold, similar to a scheme that is in place in Nottingham where businesses with 11 or more spaces are charged £375 per space each year.
John Bridge, chief executive of Cambridgeshire's Chamber of Commerce, sat on the board of the City Deal - the team responsible for coming up with the congestion-busting schemes - but quit on the eve of the plan's announcements as he disagreed with the direction of the measures.
Referring to the parking tax in particular, Bridge said: "The WPL will be used to raise money to pay for their other public transport policies. Nottingham has done it and there hasn't been a huge reduction in traffic, and most cash-strapped councils now see [a WPL] as a way to pay for other things and to claw back money the Government has taken away from them."
He added that the council had talked "about a public consultation, but there is no legal requirement for them to listen to the views expressed in the consultation and previous [transport] deals have been forced through [by the council]".
In his role as chief exec of the coounty's Chamber of Commerce, Bridge has commissioned an independent analysis of how to ease congestion in the city, which is due to be published within the next month.
Alongside the parking tax, Cambridge City Council is planning to expand its virtual road closure system from next year, which currently operates in the heart of the city in order to tackle commuter traffic, which limits access to all but emergency vehicles, buses, pedestrians and cyclists during peak times.
Tanya Sheridan, programme director of the City Deal, told BusinessCar that traffic levels have dropped by 15% since the introduction of the city centre programme in 1996. Other suggested anti-congestion measures include an expansion of bus routes and services made possible by peak-time congestion control points, a more comprehensive cycling and walking network, on-street parking controls, real-time traffic alerts, and an expansion of an advice service to help make green travel choices.
Sheridan told BusinessCar that the WPL is a preferred option compared with a congestion charge, mooted in June 2015, as the latter would have "hit poorer residents with a £5 daily charge".
The next stage is for the Cambridge WPL to go to a public consultation in 2017 to allow local businesses to express their views of the scheme.
Bridge blasted the idea of the anti-congestion measures, claiming the city is "pursuing old-fashioned policies that do not face the challenges of congestion", adding that "69% of people that travel into Cambridge for work travel by car and these policies will increase congestion".