Ten years ago, Nottingham City Council took the bold, innovative step to introduce Europe’s first Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) which has helped to improve the city’s excellent transport network at a pace which hasn’t been possible in other parts of the UK.

Still the only European city with a WPL, Nottingham’s top-class public transport is the envy of other cities eyeing its potential as it continues to win awards, most recently taking the ‘Parking for a Better World’ title at the British Parking Awards. A new impact report assesses how the WPL has changed the city and the far-reaching benefits it has brought to Nottingham.

Since its introduction back in 2012, the Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) has directly raised over £90m for sustainable transport in Nottingham by placing a levy on workplace parking spaces at employers with eleven or more spaces. The scheme was introduced to tackle congestion growth by offering high quality, affordable and reliable alternatives to driving into the city and acting as an incentive for employers to manage their workplace parking. Money raised by the scheme, which has enjoyed 100% compliance from day one, is ring-fenced for public transport or active travel improvements.

The new impact report shows that in 2007, congestion was costing the local economy £160m a year, and how the WPL has played a part in constraining congestion growth by 47%, saving the city over £15m per year, with local businesses receiving direct benefits of around £7.7m per year. It has also helped to improve air quality, contributing towards a 58% reduction in CO2 emissions since 2005 and negating the need for a chargeable Clean Air Zone. This makes a significant contribution towards Nottingham’s ambition to become the first carbon neutral UK city by 2028.

Money raised from the WPL was used to help fund NET Phase Two, doubling the existing tram system; transforming Nottingham Station as a welcoming gateway to the city; and supporting the Linkbus network which provides a valuable service running on routes that would not otherwise be commercially viable for operators. The impact report states that as a result:

  • The tram network now has 50 stops and (pre-pandemic) carries people on around 20 million trips a year. The tram offers a clean, green alternative to the car, connecting 1,270 workplaces to which around 55,000 employees commute, including 20 of the 30 largest employers in Greater Nottingham who are within 800m of a tram stop
  • Nottingham Station is now the busiest in the East Midlands, with the redevelopment creating a new concourse to connect passengers to the tram network, increased platform capacity and better passenger facilities
  • Nottingham continues to invest in its growing fleet of electric buses and boasts the world’s largest fleet of bio-gas double decker buses. Its Linkbus network helps to connect local communities and ensure that everyone in Nottingham is within 400m of a bus stop.

Nottingham has one of the highest levels of public transport use outside London, with over 40% of journeys into the city centre made by public transport pre-pandemic —well above the national average. The city also has an increasingly ‘green’ taxi fleet, e-scooters and bikes for rent, segregated cycle lanes, a dedicated ultra-low emission vehicle lane, comprehensive real-time public transport information, nine park & ride sites, a new state-of-the-art central bus station, 18km of bus lanes, traffic light priority on all bus corridors and the council’s own fleet is over 50% electric.

The impact of WPL funding can be seen across the city not only in fantastic new transport infrastructure, but also in positive knock-on effects of this investment, such as regeneration along the tram route and restoration of historic shopfronts close to Nottingham Station, with pedestrianisation, public realm improvements and new developments now stretching further up towards the city centre.

Ten years ago, when the scheme was first introduced there were fears that businesses would choose to leave the city to avoid the charge. In fact in that time, Nottingham has seen 2,600 new companies created, with 67% of them choosing Nottingham for its good transport links, and no evidence that any have left the city due to the WPL. Coupled with this, unemployment has fallen by over 6% and employment has increased by almost 21% as the city now offers many low-cost, sustainable transport connections between its neighbourhoods and places of employment and education. A WPL-funded Workplace Travel Service also supports local businesses by providing grants to help employees make more sustainable travel choices.

Nottingham City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Highways, Transport and Parks, Cllr Audra Wynter, said:

“As the Workplace Parking Levy celebrates its tenth anniversary, we can look back with pride at how it has revolutionised how people travel around Nottingham and connected our residents with jobs, education and healthcare.

“From a seedling of an idea that set out to tackle congestion growth in the city, the WPL has now transformed into a core part of the transport landscape in Nottingham. It has served as a catalyst for change, inspiring pioneering transport solutions and we’re proud of how our local businesses have risen to the challenge to affect change.

“The first of its kind in Europe, the scheme has raised almost £90 million, which has been re-invested into sustainable transport across the city. It has also allowed us to secure inward investment of over £1 billion in transport, as well as playing its part in the wider changing face of the city. It will contribute to Nottingham achieving carbon neutrality by 2028 and is now cited as part of the solution to tackle climate change by organisations such as Friends of the Earth and the Association for Public Service Excellence. We continue to speak to other cities who are increasingly interested in introducing a WPL scheme to share our knowledge, experience and expertise.”

See Nottingham’s Workplace Parking Levy ten-year impact report here: https://www.transportnottingham.com/policies/nottinghams-workplace-parking-levy-10-year-impact-report/