Westminster City Council will become the first UK authority to penalise diesel drivers with more expensive parking prices.
The Greater London borough will charge diesel cars 4p per minute more, which equates to £2.40 an hour and is 50% higher than the cost of parking a petrol-engined car, to park within its boundaries in a pilot scheme that starts on 3 April.
The change is designed to deter diesel drivers from entering the Westminster area in a bid to reduce diesel-related pollution. The council said the area of Marylebone suffers some of the highest pollution levels in London, so it is enforcing a ‘polluter pays’ principle to fight the problem.
The increase will only apply to visitors, meaning parking permit prices for local residents will remain unchanged. The council said extra money raised from the price hike would be invested in sustainable transport initiatives.
David Harvey, cabinet member for environment, sports and community, said: “Residents and visitors tell us all the time that air quality is a key concern in central London and we have consulted with our partners and local stakeholders on this practical step in improving our health and wellbeing.
“We have had a positive impact and reduced vehicle emissions through our anti-idling campaign days and by encouraging sustainable and active travel. Additional charges for diesel vehicles will mean people think twice about using highly polluting cars and invest in cleaner transport that will make a real difference in the quality of air we breathe and our environment.”
However, FairFuelUK founder Howard Cox believes the scheme is unfair. He said “The decision by Westminster Council to add 50% to the cost of parking diesel vehicles is just greedy, unscrupulous money grabbing using dubious emissions evidence as the reason to fleece hard-working motorists.
"FairFuelUK has been calling for a grown-up debate regarding incentivising older diesel vehicles to change to cleaner fuels for the past seven years. Instead we are seeing more and more short-sighted, selfish local authorities looking at penalising diesel drivers with punitive taxation, congestion fees and now by hiking parking charges. Diesel drivers already pay more at the pumps to fill up than petrol. Other nations subsidise diesel with lower duty levels compared with petrol.”
London is among the worst cities in Europe for transport-related pollution, with Brixton Road in the city’s south exceeding its annual limit for nitrogen dioxide levels just five days into 2017. The levels of nitrogen dioxide had exceeded 200 micrograms per cubic metre 20 times by the 5 January, which is two occasions more than the EU’s limit for the whole year. Last year, the same limit was broken after eight days on Putney High Street.