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In July 2019 Merton Council agreed a new set of parking charges, which aim to reduce air pollution and support drivers to make more journeys by walking, cycling and using public transport. The charges apply to on street parking, car parks, residents’ permits and visitors’ permits.

The new system is being proposed to encourage people to make more journeys by bike or on foot to help reduce air pollution levels.  Air pollution is recognised as a major contributor to poor health, with more than 9,000 premature deaths attributed to poor air quality in London. Air pollution is associated with a number of adverse health impacts; it is recognised as a contributing factor in the onset of heart disease and cancer, and studies suggest it may be associated with cognitive ageing. Air pollution particularly affects the most vulnerable in society: children and older people, and anyone with long term health conditions.

Merton has already adopted a new Air Quality Action Plan, which includes a number of important measures to tackle toxic air in the borough. The whole borough has been designated an air quality management area, which means more must be done to reduce levels of small particles and nitrogen dioxide.

Nearly two thirds of this pollutant is emitted from vehicles, particularly in town centres, which are often congested. The council has already introduced walking and cycling initiatives; anti-idling measures; car clubs, electric vehicle charging points and the diesel levy to take the most polluting vehicles off the road. The council is now seeking to use its parking strategy to adjust driver behaviour and ensure that we can provide a modern, efficient and environmentally sustainable transport policy for residents, visitors, and businesses.

The new set of parking charges is led by geography. It takes into account public transport links in each area – parking in areas well served by public transport will cost more than in places which are less well connected. Another key factor is congestion hotspots where increasing the charge for a bay and limiting how long a vehicle can park there can help to reduce the pollution from vehicles circling the area looking for a space.

The new parking charges are set to come into force during the autumn.

Income from parking charges can only be spent on running the parking service and transport projects, including filling in potholes, resurfacing borough roads and new cycling schemes. It also goes towards the Freedom Pass - London’s concessionary travel scheme. Merton has spent around £27million on the Freedom Pass during the last three years.