People are being asked to give their views in a public consultation over a proposed Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) which could help fund a radical overhaul and long-term modernisation of Leicester’s public transport, cycling and walking networks.
Over the summer Leicester City Council carried out initial consultations into a possible scheme, and now more detailed plans for the WPL have been published.
An extensive 12-week public consultation has now been launched, giving people and employers the chance to find out more details about the proposed WPL and how it would work, and to comment on the scheme. It runs until March 13, 2022.
The WPL would be citywide and would play a vital role in bringing forward a comprehensive programme of transport improvements across Leicester.
The improvements are key to meeting tough environmental and air quality targets set by both the Government and the city council itself, as well as dealing with congestion and connecting new housing developments with sustainable transport.
Under the WPL, most employers with more than 10 spaces would pay £550 per space per year for a licence to provide car parking for their employees. The high number of small businesses in Leicester means that around nine out of 10 are too small to have to pay.
The income from a WPL could be around £95million over the first 10 years, and would enable the city council to match-fund with other grants to invest up to £450million. It would mean the council could plan for long-term transport investment rather than just relying on uncertain Government funds.
The WPL is designed to encourage people who travel into the city regularly for work to use alternatives to cars for their daily commute, while financing the improvements needed to ensure the city’s public transport, cycling and walking networks provide realistic alternatives to car travel.
Plans for a WPL were featured as part of the Council’s Draft Leicester Transport Plan 2021-2036, published in the summer, which sets out priorities in meeting the city’s transport needs over the next 15 years. Transport priorities a WPL would help fund include:
- Over 400 high-quality electric tram-like buses by 2030, running on 25 Mainline services across city neighbourhoods, and five express Greenline commuter services linking six park and ride sites.
- Giving buses priority on key routes to ensure they run regularly and frequently, using tickets which can be used across different bus services, and featuring real-time bus information.
- Affordable bus fares with discounts for elderly, disabled, young and unemployed people and the ability for all travellers to get the ‘best fare’ on any journeys across the city.
- A comprehensive network of cycleways linking existing city centre routes to local neighbourhoods.
- Investment in the railway station to ensure good regional and national connections and to build on the £22m of funding recently secured to revamp the station.
A WPL has been operating successfully in Nottingham for nearly 10 years, and Leicester City Council has been working closely with both Nottingham City Council, and Leicester’s De Montfort University, to assess the economic, environmental, transport and health impacts of such a scheme in Leicester.
The scheme would require Government approval, after which the scheme could start in early 2023. The city council would work closely with local employers well in advance to prepare them for its introduction. Between 450 and 600 larger businesses across the city are likely to be eligible under the scheme.
Leicester deputy city mayor leading on transport and the environment, Cllr Adam Clarke, said: “A Workplace Parking Levy has been a consideration for some time in terms of addressing the city’s present and future transport needs, and it is clear it could play a major role in financing the kind of improvements set out in the draft Leicester Transport Plan, which are vital if we are to meet both the city’s transport needs and its environmental obligations.
“Nottingham City Council has valuable experience of a WPL over the last 10 years or so, which is why we’ve been working closely with them in designing a scheme for our own city.
“The benefits of reducing traffic in the city are easy to see – anyone commuting during the school holidays can see how much difference even a 10 per cent drop in vehicle numbers makes.
“Of course, people need to know there’s a reliable, convenient public transport system available if they are to be persuaded to leave their cars at home, and the money raised by a WPL would enable us to make huge steps forward in delivering that over the coming years.
“We are encouraged by the initial feedback we received over the summer and now really want to hear from people across the city to know what they want from such a scheme, and how to make it work as best as it can for Leicester.
“The Government would have to give us approval to bring in a scheme, but the more people take part in this consultation, the better chance we have of ensuring it can address local needs.”
The WPL proposals are the latest stage of work to address the city’s transport needs.
Last month, the city council published its Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP), setting out ambitious plans which would vastly improve bus services, vehicles and routes across Leicester in a 10-year project involving the city council and local bus operators.
While £95million has already been secured for the plans in the BSIP from a range of sources, and further bids are being submitted for a share of nearly £3 billion of national funding, income from a WPL would be a key source of the finance package needed.
The BSIP includes bringing in over 200 fully electric buses, improving reliability and frequency of services, automated digital ticketing, as well as introducing bus lane and signal measures to give priority to public transport.
It would establish a formal partnership between the council and bus companies to bring the measures into effect by 2025.
Leicester City Council also recently clinched £19million from the Government’s Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme, towards a £47million programme that will see the introduction of almost 100 new electric buses.