Council to improve air quality by driving down car use in the most polluted areas

Merton Council has underlined its commitment to reducing air pollution and improving public health by supporting people to make fewer journeys by car.

At a meeting on Monday 10 December, Merton Council’s Cabinet agreed to use one of the only ways available to it to cut air pollution and congestion – to drive down car use by revising parking charges across the borough.

The whole borough has been designated as an air quality management area, which means more must be done to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide. Nearly two thirds of this main pollutant is emitted from vehicles and pollution levels are highest in town centres across the borough.

To help tackle air pollution, Merton Council is proposing to bring in a new charging system for on street parking, car park tickets and residents’ permits. The revised parking charges will level out historic discrepancies and be set according to access to public transport – drivers will pay more to park in areas where there are good public transport links than in places which are not so well connected.

Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Health, Councillor Tobin Byers, said: “We want to encourage more people to lead healthier lives and to reduce air pollution, particularly in the most congested parts of the borough. Parking services have a vital role to play in tackling air pollution by supporting people to increase the number of journeys they make on foot, by bike or using public transport, rather than driving.

“We have already introduced a variety of walking and cycling initiatives, car clubs, electric vehicle changing points and the diesel levy to take more of the most polluting vehicles off the road. However, it is clear that we need to do more to reduce these harmful emissions by discouraging drivers from using their cars in congested parts of the borough which are well served by public transport. Parking charges have been frozen for a number of years and there is now a need to revise them in order to drive down car use and improve air quality in our borough.”

It is intended that the new parking charges will come into force no earlier than April 2019.