Bath city centre car park fees could be linked to emissions in near future
B&NES Council transport chief Mark Shelford made the announcement a week after the biggest shake-up in fees since 2010
Charges at Bath’s city centre car parks have just seen their biggest change since 2010, but another shake-up looks just around the corner.
They could be based on emissions within a year, the council’s transport chief has said.
Councillor Mark Shelford (Conservatives, Lyncombe) said linking the two is the “next stage” in what he described as a “journey” to cleaner air.
Mr Shelford’s announcement comes just a week after the biggest shake-up of Bath parking charges in eight years took effect.
BBC Radio Bristol spoke to a number of residents who expressed their unhappiness at the new charges and booking system, but Mr Shelford insisted that feedback has been “pretty positive”.
Batheaston resident Emma Adams, a member of the campaign group Bath Deserves Better and a parish councillor in Batheaston, said: “I think people feel ripped off.
“I think if you work in Bath, £15.50 a day is a lot of money even with the 10 per cent discount [available to residents].
“I think it’s unrealistic because it’s making people … it’s a stick approach to using the park and rides.
“I would be very interested to know if the council have actually asked people as a viable alternative [if] they are willing to use a park and ride.”
Asked by host Emma Britton what’s wrong with a park and ride, Ms Adams said: “There’s nothing wrong, I think that people tend to want to rely on knowing when they can get home.
“They have other commitments, they have to pick their children up from nursery.
“Some people need their car during the day and it’s not a viable alternative to use a park and ride.
“I think a lot of people don’t necessarily want to queue at the end of a day, sit in another queue in a bus to go and get their car.
“I’d be very interested to hear if Mr Shelford has asked people who park at Charlotte Street [car park], if they are willing to use a park and ride.
“If that’s positive or are they just going to try to spend time cruising around the outskirts, Larkhall and Weston, looking for a car park that they can walk into knowing exactly how long it’s going to take them to get back to their car at the end of the evening.”
She added: “I think you could put people’s backs up thinking Bath is not a very welcoming place if you’re going to charge me this amount of money.”
New fees took effect on August 13. A full day’s parking at Charlotte Street car park rose from £8.50 to £15 and a flat £1.60-an-hour price for short-stay car parks was introduced.
Sunday on-street parking remains free of charge and park and ride prices did not increase, and Mr Shelford said the council hopes more people start to use the city’s three park and ride facilities.
He said short-term fees have not increased but this is only true for residents parking for an hour or two hours who claim the discount avaialble.
Mr Shelford said: “We’re taking part in the clean air process and this is part of that journey of improving air quality.
“We’re doing three things: making park and ride more attractive in comparison to parking in the car parks within Bath.
“We want to support our local shopkeepers and that’s why we haven’t increased the short-term parking charges.
“And then finally we want to support the residents of all of Bath and North East Somerset by giving them a 10 per cent discount which they can get through MyPermit which is an app or they can do it by phone.
“It’s an easy system, I’ve joined it, it took me three minutes to do it.”
Ms Britton said: “It’s not everyone’s cup of tea though using a smartphone app.”
Mr Shelford replied: “No, you’re right, it isn’t which is why you can do it by the phone or text, so you don’t have to do it by a smartphone.”
Asked why the council hasn’t made the park and ride cheaper “rather than everything else more expensive”, he said: “That’s a good question, it’s something we look at but we’ve done a lot of work on this, we’ve modelled it very carefully.
“We’ve been out to focus groups and consultation and the aim is really to make it sustainable for the future and that’s why we’ve decided to make the park and ride more attractive by putting up the in-town car park costs.
“Because what we’re trying to do is make a difference to people, make them think about not coming into the centre of town by car and find sustainable methods.”
He added: “I think you have to have a balance [of carrot and stick approaches].
“Remember the goal here is clean air and this is all part of the process and it is a journey.
“Our next stage will be to make the car parking charges based on emissions and also I’m hoping – it’s an aspiration, we haven’t got there yet. We haven’t quite got the technology right but we’re working at it – to have numbered car parking spaces so you can book space that you know will be free and you drive straight there.”
“It’s absolutely not about money, this is about clean air and making it more attractive to park at a park and ride than it is to park for a long-term stay inside an in-city car park.”
Asked what the feedback has been so far, Mr Shelford said: “Pretty positive actually.
“And remember we extensively consulted on this last year. We then went to a series of focus groups. We looked at all of the options we were looking at.
“And if I tell you that the My Permit system has gone up by 23 per cent at car parks since we introduced it … I think that speaks a lot because it’s only been going for a few days.”
Ms Britton said: “I’m still unsure how people would be overwhelmingly positive about paying almost double to park their car but I take you at face value Mark.”
Speaking to Bath Live, Mr Shelford said linking parking fees to emission levels was “an aspiration” of his and in the Parking Strategy that was adopted by the council on February 7.
He said it would see car parks using a type of automatic number plate recognition system to detect which type of vehicle was entering.
‘Moving at a pace’
“It tells us what type of car you have got and therefore if you’ve got a hybrid of a electric car you would have a much reduced charge,” Mr Shelford said.
“If you have got a compliant car you would pay the same. If you have a non-compliant car you would pay more, but the details of that are still to be worked out.
“This is where we’re going.
“It’s all connected, it’s all part of the package. It has to, because we’ve been mandated to be compliant with the [reduced] toxicity levels by the end of 2021.
“We’ve really got to get a move on to make it happen. We can’t just sit around on our hands … so that’s why we’re moving at a pace.”
Why the changes?
“The changes are being made in as part of a package of measures by Bath and North East Somerset Council to tackle and improve air pollution and encourage more people to use Bath’s park and rides or other public transport,” the council said.
The council added that it had listened to the concerns of shop owners – such as Article gift shop owner Lucy Simon – who fear that an increase in parking charges would reduce numbers of shoppers and harm business.
“New charges will see the cost of long-stay parking increase, however, in order to support local shops and traders, any resident parking for three hours or less in one of the council’s car parks will see the cost of parking either reduced or staying broadly the same.”