Residential parking: Is a postcode lottery ripping you off?

FOI request finds residents can expect to pay anything from nothing to £360 a year. 

Parking in London

Following on from the recent news that congestion charges are to increase in London this month, motorists have been hit with another piece of bad news – or perhaps good news, depending on where you live.

A Freedom of Information requests made by Trusted Dealers found that residential parking schemes in the UK cost anything from nothing at all to £360 a year, and even residents of the same city can see huge variations in price from district to district. The schemes, which are operated by local councils, are often billed as a way to help residents park closer to their homes by reserving road space for those with valid permits.

Many of them are operated free of charge. However, people in the City of London, which is home to the most expensive scheme in the country, can expect to pay out £360 a year for their parking spaces, and the City of Westminster charges £141 for vehicles with the largest engine sizes. Some councils charge lower rates for more eco-friendly vehicles: for instance, the City of London’s charge drops to just £50 a year for electric cars.

And while London’s motorists seem to shoulder a heavier burden than most, there are similar discrepancies even in rural areas. The FOI requests found that some residents in West Somerset are paying only £8 a year for their residential parking scheme, while just a few miles over in Taunton Dean and South Somerset, the charge rises to £35. In Birmingham, the annual charge is £16 in most parts of the city, but for people living in the Jewellery Quarter it rises to a whopping £210.

Some of the priciest councils to park under included Surrey Heath at £100 a year; Cheshire West and Chester at £60 and Maidstone at £40. According to the research, these schemes generate an average of £291,000 a year for local authorities – and while some say the money is reinvested into road parking schemes, others did not say how they use the money raised.

“The price of residential parking may pale in comparison to the price of petrol, but it’s still an additional burden for motorists to bear, and this data shows some are counting the cost of living in certain areas,” said Neil Addley, Managing Director at Trusted Dealers. “It seems unfair that in some cases, the money raised from permit schemes is used to offset council tax, implying that motorists in these jurisdictions are paying over the odds – and for a privilege that some would say ought to be free.”

For many motorists living in a high-charging area, the only options are to either grin and bear it or park a bit further from their homes. If you feel you’ve received an unfair penalty for parking close to your home, you could always appeal: according to consumer group Which?, as many as two-thirds of motorists who contest such charges are successful. It may also be worth looking into parking apps which show the location of spaces in your area: there might be one just up the road that’s free to use.

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