A proposal to explore the idea was due to be considered by the City Deal executive board back in October, but was not ultimately discussed. However, the Post understands that it is likely to be included on a future agenda.
Money raised from parking levies must be invested in transport projects in the areas from which they were generated. The schemes require government approval before they can be introduced and are designed to reduce reliance on the car for commuting.
If Preston and South Ribble were to pursue such a plan, they would become only the second parts of the UK to do so, after Nottingham brought in a charge back in 2012. That city’s levy was set at £428 per space per year for businesses providing more than 10 free bays for their workers - and has raised £64m since it came into force.
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However, the boss of a business lobbying group has urged caution before any move by the Preston and South Ribble City Deal area to introduce a similar scheme.
“All cities are starting to think about how they’ll finance their net zero carbon commitments - and on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the most radical, this is about a two or three,” said Frank McKenna, CEO of Downtown in Business.
“But what we don't want is to put additional burdens on businesses that have already been through some really challenging times.
“There are only two places where business can go to get this money - either its customer base [or] staffing. So if we're tackling, in a very small way, the very important green agenda, but at the cost of jobs, I wouldn’t think that was a particularly common sense approach to take.
“Preston is well placed to grow and be a real economic driver for Lancashire - but that is only going to happen if the private sector continues to see the city as a good place to invest.
“Are we looking at increasing investment into public transport links, better park and ride schemes and businesses being encouraged to car share - can we incentivise rather than always having the stick?” Mr. McKenna asked.
A document that had been due to be presented to the City Deal board in October suggested that a “professional transport study” would need to be undertaken before a firm recommendation could be made as to the merits of introducing a parking levy for any part of the City Deal area. The backing of Lancashire County Council, as the highways authority, would be required before any such work could be commissioned.
The report also noted that, in many areas of Preston and South Ribble, workers have the option of free on-street parking, which could stymie the intent behind any charging system. The pool of businesses potentially subject to any future levy is also thought to be much smaller than in Nottingham - and, in the case of Preston city centre, it would be public sector organisations that would be most exposed to it.
Forty percent of Nottingham’s employees now travel into work by public transport and the levy has also been credited with helping to reduce carbon emissions by a third over a broader period since 2005.
The £14.7m plan to transform Friargate and Ringway in Preston is designed. in part, to encourage bus use, cycling and walking.