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Drivers face postcode lottery over parking permits


The cost of parking on the road where you live can vary from nothing to £750 a year depending on your local authority. But are these charges fair?

Parking sign

Motorists in some parts of the UK are being forced to pay hundreds of pounds to park outside their own homes.

Research from car insurer Churchill has found that councils in Birmingham and Manchester levy the highest charges for parking permits in Britain.

Paying for the privilege

In these cities, drivers can face costs of up to £750 a year simply for the privilege of being able to park in their own street.

The firm found that the average cost of an annual parking permit across the UK was just under £60.

Almost two-thirds of councils have a permit system in place on at least some of the residential streets they are responsible for.

But many local authorities impose a range of charges, with the most expensive permits reserved for parking in more congested areas such as town centres.

‘Ignored expense’

For example, the cost of an annual parking permit in outer Birmingham is just £16 compared with £750 for residents who need to park in the inner zone of the city centre.

Steve Barrett, head of Churchill Car Insurance, said that the cost of being able to park was something people often failed to account for when calculating the expense of buying a car.

“Our research shows that parking permit costs vary considerably across the UK, so we’d urge motorists to factor this in when looking to purchase a new car, especially if it is an additional vehicle,” Barrett said.

But he added that permits were a necessary evil.

‘Parking controls are necessary’

Traffic warden ticketing parked cars

“Parking controls and permits play a huge part in keeping roads safe and clear, as well as ensuring residents have priority over spaces surrounding their property,” Barrett said.

Churchill found that, surprisingly, London councils only appeared four times in the 10 most expensive areas to park.

Islington was the priciest borough in the capital at up to £434 a year.

At the other end of the spectrum, residents in South Ayrshire, Scotland, pay just 50p for an annual permit – although permits are free in a number of local authorities.

Polluters pay more

Baby electric car meme

Some authorities base charges on exhaust emissions: for example, Islington has made permits for electric cars free while the highest rate of £434 a year is reserved for vehicles with the largest engines.

Policies over replacements for lost permits also vary, with some authorities charging up to £60.

And the cost of parking a second vehicle can also be prohibitively expensive.

Hammersmith & Fulham council charges as little as £60 for a first vehicle but almost £500 for a second car.

Refund rip-off?

One further potential problem is that residents are not guaranteed to get a partial refund for unexpired permits should they move home.

Birmingham council, for example, says only that it will “consider” any application for a refund.

Councils say that they need to charge hefty sums for permits as they need money to maintain streets and protect residents from vehicle emissions.

Under the Road Traffic Act 1984, councils are not allowed to make a profit from parking charges or residents’ permits.

The fees must instead reflect the costs of administering the schemes.

In 2013, a group of residents took Barnet council in north London to court after it imposed huge price increases on their parking permits and visitors’ vouchers.

Their case was successful and Barnet’s charges were found to be a form of “unlawful revenue raising”.


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