The Transport Bill, published in November 1999, will create the
workplace parking levy - a charge for employee car park spaces. The
inclusion of the power in the Bill came as no great surprise as the
policy has been widely touted since the present Government came to
The Government’s aim is to reduce congestion
and give local authorities the means to fund alternatives to the
car. Provided a local authority has made a local transport plan
which has been approved by the Secretary of State, a licensing
scheme can be introduced that will enable it to hypothecate the net
proceeds of the scheme to local transport. The net proceeds are
derived by subtracting the expenses of establishing and operating
the scheme from the gross proceeds.
However, there could be a number of practical
difficulties, and it remains to be seen whether the new powers are
sufficient to persuade us to leave the car at home and take the bus
Spending the money
In its present pre-committee form, the Transport
Bill contains no power or duty for the Secretary of State to compel
a local planning authority to use the net proceeds to tackle the
objectives of a local transport plan. The planning authority could,
for example, obtain the funds by imposing a licensing scheme on
retail development in the town centre, but then choose to sit on
that money for up to 10 years. Once local authorities obtain the
money, they are free within that period to choose when to enter
into, for example, a contract with a bus company to provide
particular routes. Whether or not Government intends this, a local
planning authority may find that it is able to charge for car
parking spaces well before it chooses to provide support for better
It remains to be seen whether developers and
owner/occupiers can find a way to tie into any licence agreements a
requirement that the funds they are paying are spent within a
period of time, to provide the necessary public transport
The publication of the Government’s
consultation paper “Breaking the Log Jam” in December
of 1998 highlighted a number of dangers for owner/occupiers and
There is likely to be a period of experimentation
before licensing schemes become familiar to everyone in the
development process. There are no set timescales for the
introduction of powers.
Breaking the Log Jam explained that whilst it was
necessary to introduce primary legislation to enable local
authorities to introduce a levy for workplace parking, most of the
detail that should give people comfort in what is expected will not
be available until pilot schemes have been assessed.
For example, some local authorities may choose to
be more energetic than others when enforcing the terms of licensing
schemes against owner/occupiers. The Transport Bill allows for a
right of entry to the premises where the licence is in place to
check that workplace parking is appropriately covered by a licence.
However, this is a watered down version of the power proposed in
the consultation paper which suggested that agents of the local
authorities should be ‘allowed immediate and unannounced
access to developments in order to examine if the terms of the
licence are being adhered to’.
In addition to any experimentation that will take
place, there is enormous potential for inconsistency between local
First, the notes that accompany the Transport Bill
explain that it is for local authorities to decide whether or not
to bring forward a workplace licensing scheme. They appear to be
under no statutory duty to ensure these are in place. It is
arguable that a local authority seeking to encourage
employment-related activity will either relax PPG13 (draft) parking
standards to allow a larger number of licence units or, simply
decide not to introduce a scheme in the first place.
Secondly, local authorities who are competing for
new businesses to locate in their area may be unwilling to impose
maximum parking standards and licence schemes if other neighbouring
authorities are not doing the same. Some local authorities may seek
to apply licensing schemes to some development (office space) but
not to others (retail and leisure).
And finally, exemptions and terms of schemes may
differ widely between local authorities. The Transport Bill sets
out the basic elements (see table 1) that a licensing scheme must
contain, but the Bill still allows local authorities to vary
charges in accordance with different days or times of the day,
different parts of the licensing area, different classes of motor
vehicles or different numbers of licensed units.
Developers and owner/occupiers should take great
note of an important procedural point. When they apply to local
authorities for a licence to park up to a maximum number of
vehicles and then pay the appropriate sum based on a charge per
unit, local authorities will be obliged to issue the licence for
the number of units that are requested. Local authorities are not
able to use this mechanism as a means to directly control the
number of parking place provided.
Our love of the car is so strong, that many of us
will continue to drive until physically prevented, either by
congestion or because there is nowhere to park at the end of the
journey. Employees who are not allocated a licence unit, or arrive
too late in the day to take up a space, will try to leave their car
on an adjacent residential street (which may or may not be subject
to a residents’ parking zone) or to a lesser extent, public
car parks. This can be controlled by local authorities, but added
expense and organisational problems will be incurred by them. Many
people will pay a relatively large amount of money so they are able
to continue to use their car. Public car parks adjacent to large
developments will probably attract the displacement from the
licensed car parks.
When the streets and public car parks are full,
displacement on to private land could become a problem.
Displacement of vehicles to the car parks at retail and leisure
outlets, for example would be the responsibility of the
owner/occupier of that land. This forces the owner/occupier to take
on the burden of tackling unauthorised parking.
The workplace licensing scheme that the local
authority imposes will allow an owner/occupier a maximum number of
licence units for employees. How does an employer decide who should
have a space? In the event that an employee who honestly believes
he or she should get a space does not, who is the employer to say
that an employee should not be able to drive to work, but park
elsewhere? Who pays for each space - the employer or the
There may be no option for a particular employee to
use the car because of diverse trip requirements, and any money
that is obtained from owner/occupiers for the improvement of public
transport may not be spent for some years. The required
improvements for public transport may not come about for some time;
meanwhile the employee is left to fend for himself. ?
The principle underlying the introduction of
workplace licensing schemes recognises a certain aspect of human
nature: we like to drive, and many of us would love to drive to
work and many will continue to do so until the roads are closed, or
we know that it is pointless driving to work as there will be
nowhere to park (or we are physically prevented from getting into
the car and starting the engine!).
The licensing scheme recognises the need for a
strong, thick, heavy “stick” but there is a danger that
schemes will become a “tax” on parking that does not
reduce congestion or promote a shift in the mode of travel.
Will the scheme actually achieve a change in
attitude in Britain in the use of the car for travelling to work?
At the moment, broadly speaking, the more senior you are the less
you should have to worry about personal transport - one example
being the Ministerial car. It will be interesting to see if places
in licensing schemes are allocated on a need or a perk basis.
Key elements of a Workplace Licensing
1. A local transport plan with objectives, approved
by the Secretary of State towards which the net income can be
2. A type of development/building which has parking for employees,
and is not exempt from licence schemes by virtue of inclusion on
the exemption list drawn up by the Secretary of State.
3. A licence granted to the owner/occupier of premises by a local
authority, for a specific number of “licence
4. Terms and conditions specifying the levy system which may differ
according to times of the day, and lists of which vehicle types
will not count towards a licence total.
5. Rights of entry for allowing an Inspector access to check on the
use of the licence area.
6. List of civil penalty charges to be paid of licence terms are
7. Independent Adjudication process for handling disputes.
Written by Tony Kitson and Alistair Watson of our
Planning Group for Estates Gazette.
Tony can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and
Alistair at email@example.com or on (+44) (0)20 7367 3000