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Birmingham's Workplace Parking Levy: What It Means

Birmingham's Workplace Parking Levy: What It Means

Birmingham City Council is preparing to introduce a workplace parking levy, which will tax every car parking space in the city centre at the rate of £500 per space per year.

The proposal is based on an outline business case prepared by consultant Pell Frischmann and will be considered by the city council's cabinet on 15 October. You can read the business case here and a report on the proposals here.

It will mean all parking spaces at office schemes in the city centre will face a charge, and aims to change the way that people travel into and around Birmingham, which will have a knock-on effect on commercial real estate. This is what you need to know.

What area will it cover?

Birmingham city centre inside the A4540 Middleway ring road. This is the same area as the Clean Air Zone, where a separate clean air charge will also be levied.

Who will pay it?

That has yet to be decided (see discounts and exemptions) but the council estimates that 14,587 parking spaces will be licensed under the scheme.

Will there be discounts or exemptions?

Yes, there will be discounts and exemptions, although their scope has yet to be agreed and will depend on supporting evidence from parking and travel surveys, business and stakeholder engagement and wider consultation.

Exemptions will be for workplace parking spaces which do not have to be licensed at all, such as for motorbikes or delivery vehicles. Discounts will be given for spaces which need to be licensed, but where no charge will be levied. “A 100% discount is proposed for workplace spaces provided for registered disabled Blue Badge holders and employers who provide a low number of workplace spaces (e.g.10 or fewer in total across all of their premises within the city centre),” the report said.

What about vulnerable sectors of the local economy or public services?

The report hints that more generous discounting might be on offer. “Other potential discounts or exemptions identified may include low-emission vehicles, and vehicles for all hospital and health services volunteers, educational facilities and specific sectors (e.g. creative industries),” it said.

However, city council employees hoping they will get free spaces could be disappointed. “Birmingham City Council will be included in the WPL scheme and the financial liability for the 238 chargeable parking spaces will be met by the council. It is anticipated that a proportion of the charges will be passed on to employees.” 

What is the upside?

The levy will raise about £7.1M a year, once initial startup costs are covered. Between 2024 and 2034 it is estimated that £79M will be generated (allowing for a 2% per annum increase to the parking levy and operational expenditure).

The idea is that this small pot will help fund other forms of travel “including improvements to active travel modes (including walking and cycling), other sustainable modes of transport (e.g. public transport) and schemes which positively contribute towards reducing car dominance and improving air quality and congestion,” the report said.

The council do not expect the levy to reduce the number of workplace parking spaces.

What? Surely the aim is to cut the amount of workplace parking?

No, the aim is to make travel more sustainable. The council’s consultants have looked at the experience in Nottingham, where seven years of charging the levy has made no overall difference to the number of parking places, and concluded the overall number of parking places will remain about the same in Birmingham, too.

“The rationale behind it is that whilst some employers will likely reduce their provision, other land uses may be given over to development with additional parking provision, which is broadly comparable to levels of parking provision in Nottingham post-implementation of WPL,” the report said.

However, parking provision in the city centre will be subject to the aspirations of a revised Supplementary Planning Document. In other words, whilst the levy might not alter the number of parking places, other planning rules could make a difference.

Birmingham's Workplace Parking Levy: What It Means

So what transport schemes could benefit?

Projects that make the city centre more attractive for sustainable travel, improve connectivity and complement the transport schemes are top of a list which includes:

• Metro Expansion to East Birmingham.

• Pedestrianisation of the city centre and Moor Street.

• Snow Hill Growth Strategy including transformation of the A38 and investment in public transport.

• Cycle routes and canal improvements.

• Travel demand management (which includes persuading people to think about travel in new ways).

Final business case approval is expected 2021 with 2023-2024 being the first year of operation.

Have workplace levies been successful elsewhere?

There is just one UK example: Nottingham. Their levy was introduced in 2012 in response to congestion problems and now stands at £415 per place per year.

“The Nottingham WPL has provided funding for major transport infrastructure initiatives, whilst encouraging public transport use and better car park management. Nottingham has shown no negative business impacts and whilst no direct link can be made to WPL, Nottingham has experienced strong economic growth since the implementation of its WPL,” the Birmingham report said.