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Reviewing parking in Newham to improve air quality

19 February 2020 in Environment and Health
The link between poor air quality, the climate emergency and emissions from vehicles is undeniable. Newham Council last night recommended accepting an ambitious new set of parking proposals designed to encourage residents to switch away from high polluting vehicles, and towards cleaner, more sustainable modes of transport.  
​The imperative to act and tackle pollution could not be clearer which is why in April 2019 the Council declared a climate emergency. In November, the Council published a 25 point action plan to address the challenges of poor air quality in the borough, including measures to reduce the amount of pollution created by vehicles in the borough.

Poor air quality affects everyone and is directly linked to the physical development of young people, who account for more than 38 per cent of our residents. Newham suffers from some of the highest rates of hospital admissions for asthma in under 9s in the country. In the elderly population, poor air quality exposure is linked to an increased rate of strokes, asthma, and impaired lung function and memory loss.  

Public Health England 2018 data indicated that Newham has the worst death rate attributable to poor air quality in London. A recent report by the British Heart Foundation found levels of particulate (PM2.5) pollution in the borough were the highest for any local authority in the country, increasing the risk of an early death by exposing residents to the equivalent of smoking an average 159 cigarettes per year. 

Tackling the climate and health emergency posed to residents by poor air quality in Newham has, for the past 21 months, been a policy priority of the Council. 

To address the twin challenges of poor air quality and climate change the Council has been working on ways to reduce pollution from vehicles and encourage behaviour change towards more sustainable methods of transport.

One of the key areas identified as in need of an urgent review is the policy on parking, which discussed and approved at a meeting of Cabinet last night (Tuesday 18 February).

Cllr James Asser, cabinet member for the environment, highways and sustainable transport said: “It is clear that the Council’s previous parking policies and procedures were doing nothing to help meet our air quality or public health objectives and that a comprehensive review was long overdue. 

“Pollution from vehicles is a major contributor to the borough’s poor air quality and parking policies and procedures have the ability to influence the number and type of vehicles using our local roads, and can potentially encourage residents and visitors to think about how they travel around the borough.” 

To make parking fairer for everyone in the borough, a new set of policies has been developed to improve our air quality in three distinct ways:
  • Incentivising Cleaner Vehicles by encouraging residents to switch to less polluting vehicles by introducing differential residential and business parking permit charges, based on the vehicle’s emissions.
  • Promoting Lower Car Ownership in the borough by increasing parking permit charges for multiple vehicles registered at a single address. 
  • Improving Sustainable and Active Travel by investing in sustainable transport, like walking, cycling or public transport and by increasing existing parking charges (both on street and off-street), and making cleaner and healthier travel a more attractive option. 
Councillor James Asser said; “The changes we are proposing are long overdue, and in terms of residential parking charges, bring Newham into line with all but one other London borough. 

“Newham Council has come a long way in developing policies to tackle poor air quality in a very short space of time. Not only do we recognise we must take action, we have responded with proposals we believe will have a positive impact. We are determined to pursue policies which will improve the health and ultimately save the lives of our residents.”

The key parking changes proposed are:

  • The introduction of five emissions based vehicle charging bands for residential permits (based on DVLA groupings used by HMRC for vehicle taxation)
  • The first permit will be free for electric and most plug-in hybrid vehicles
  • Business permit charges will also become emission based, with zero and hybrid emissions vehicles receiving free business permits, and new charges introduced for three further emission tiers. 
  • On and off street parking charges will increase by 15 per cent across the board, in line with retail price inflation from 2012 (since the last charge review).  

The Council estimates that the largest group of vehicles (almost 23,000) registered in the borough will be liable for a modest residential permit charge of £60 per year while 60% of business permits will be the same price or free.

Alongside these changes, the review proposes a further modernisation of Newham’s parking service by moving towards a fully cashless system. This will mean the removal of the remaining of pay and display parking machines and the introduction of a paperless pay-by-phone App system across the borough supplemented by over 150 pay point locations in retailers and other locations. 

A new on-line system will also allow for the replacement of paper resident and visitor permits with ‘virtual parking wallets’ and ‘parking credits’ for residents.  Parking wallets contain an allocation of parking credits which residents will be able to use for free parking in town centres and for other important family or social trips. 

Cllr James Asser, said; “A large proportion of residents of the borough, cannot afford to own cars, and 52 per cent of all households in the borough do not have access to a private vehicle. These proposed changes to parking policy aim to redress the balance of fairness, so that those who create the most pollution, pay towards the remedial measures we have to introduce to tackle poor air quality.

“The range of charges we proposed for Newham residents’ vehicles are still lower than over 50% of other similar and neighbouring boroughs like Tower Hamlets and Hackney.”

The Council has already undertaken an extensive engagement process with residents and businesses, at special parking forums, and with an online consultation/forum. The views gathered from these exercises informed elements of the parking review document. However, this is a significant change of policy and will be subject to its own statutory consultation exercise along with further opportunities for residents and businesses to make their views known.