Charging motorists by car length is 'insanity'

SHAUN LOWTHORPE A plan to introduce parking permit charges in Norwich based on the length of cars was dubbed an act of “ill-informed insanity” last night. But Norwich City Council chiefs said they had no intention of reversing the initiative.


A plan to introduce parking charges in Norwich based on the length of cars was dubbed an act of “ill-informed insanity” last night.

But Norwich City Council chiefs said they had no intention of reversing the initiative.

From March, residents are due to be charged for parking permits based on the length of the vehicle.

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That would see those of you driving a Nissan Micra, or other vehicle less than 3.92m, continue to pay £16 a year for a permit.

But you will have to fork out £22 for a Ford Focus, and other cars up to 4.45m long.

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And if you have a Range Rover, or a car longer than 4.45m, you will be paying £30.

Though those with an electric or gas-powered car pay nothing.

First agreed back in May and reported in the EDP at the time, the rest of the world has woken up to the scheme, apparently because of an item which appeared in a motoring magazine last week - before hitting the national news.

Supporters claim the new charges will help cut carbon emissions and free up parking spaces on clogged-up city streets.

Critics - including motoring journalist Quentin Wilson, who was on the airwaves yesterday decrying the scheme as an act of “ill-informed insanity” - argue it is unsubtle and ask: “What about newer cleaner cars which spew out less fumes than older smaller ones?”

And is a £14-a-year “saving” really enough to encourage a switch to a smaller car?

Despite the clamour, City Hall said last night there was no chance of reversing the scheme.

Steve Morphew, leader of the city council, said: “What's quite interesting now is that there are a number of places around the country contacting us to find out about it.”

He added: “There's never a perfect solution and if you tried to introduce a scheme which looked at different emissions, the bureaucracy behind that would have been astronomical and most people wouldn't have been able to understand it.”

A consultation at the time showed a majority - 52pc - opposed to the new charges, while 35pc supported it and 13pc were not sure.

But Mr Morphew denied the council was ignoring public opinion. “The consultation showed there wasn't a large opposition to it - most people weren't actually bothered,” he said. “It was a genuine consultation. If there had been overwhelming opposition to it, given that we were putting prices up for a number of people, we wouldn't have done it.”

Both Lib Dem and Green members of the highways committee, which approved the new charges, were also in favour - though there was a split among the Tory ranks about its merits.

Rupert Read, Green Party transport spokesman at City Hall, said last night he supported the scheme in principle, but said it should be refined.

“Of course it is right to link the price of a parking permit to the greenhouse gas emissions of the car - those running lower- emission cars should be rewarded for doing so, by paying less than others. Tying the price of the permit to the length of the vehicle is, however, a very blunt instrument for doing this - as I pointed out repeatedly at the time this was discussed.

“We would have preferred a scheme that explicitly tied low emissions to low-cost parking permits, rather than relying on the correlation between car length and emissions - and we said this loud and clear.

“However, having said that, a reason for also taking account of length is that longer vehicles take up more space on roads where such space is at a premium.

“So I can understand why the council decided to introduce this scheme, and I hope that it will help incentivise people thinking of replacing their car, or of getting a new car, to go for smaller lower-emission models.”

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