Merton Council reverses decision to increase the cost of parking permits due to mounting financial pressures on residents

Plans for an emissions-based charging system for parking in Merton, which would have seen a number of local permit holders paying more, have been reversed.

At a meeting on Monday 11 October, Merton Council’s Cabinet decided to retain the current pricing system due to concerns around increasing pressures on residents’ cost of living, and in light of new information suggesting that the most polluting vehicles are already being taken off the road.

Car ownership in Merton has fallen by approximately 2,500 between 2017 and 2020, whilst the number of electric vehicles in the borough has increased by more than 70% over the last year alone, from 482 to 824. Furthermore, parking permit data shows that there has been a shift to less polluting vehicles as residents have replaced their old cars over the last two years, with approximately 15% of residential permits moving into lower emissions bands in this time period.

Though this specific policy is no longer proceeding, the council’s charging system for parking still incentivises less polluting modes of transport by charging more in areas with better public transport connection and offering reduced permits for electric vehicles. Looking at the issue of air pollution more widely, the local authority is still committed to delivering on its in-depth Air Quality Action Plan.

Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health, Councillor Rebecca Lanning said: “After considering carefully the views of residents as the pandemic has moved on, we have decided not to go ahead with emissions-based parking charges.

“Merton residents have had a hard time during the pandemic and, with thousands still struggling to make ends meet, we recognise that increased charges would have impacted on residents who have been furloughed or made redundant.

“Too many families are now facing a cut to universal credit, a hike in energy costs this winter, plus a substantial rise in National Insurance contributions in the spring. We don’t want to add to this burden. 

“We also recognise that even without increasing prices there has already been a noticeable switch to lower polluting vehicles.

“Ultimately, we want residents to drive less and the pandemic has helped make this shift. However, it wouldn’t be right to implement emissions-based parking charges at a time when some people still remain cautious about using public transport.

“We appreciate that through traffic and commercial vehicles are key contributing factors to poor air quality in Merton, and as we cannot tackle these alone we will continue to work with other local authorities across London as a whole.”