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Virtual permits, pricing structures and permit circulation

Graham Storrie explains how Project Centre reviewed the City of Edinburgh Council’s Essential User Permit Scheme

Graham Storrie
16 November 2021
Edinburgh by Peter Cordes (Unsplash)
City of Edinburgh`s NSL Apply permit portal
City of Edinburgh`s NSL Apply permit portal


Edinburgh’s Essential User Permit Scheme allows public and charitable sector workers access to park within a controlled parking zone (CPZ) while undertaking official duties.

To improve flexibility, the City of Edinburgh Council commissioned Project Centre to undertake a review of the Essential User Permit scheme, and benchmark it against other similar schemes operated by other local authorities.

Project Centre began by reviewing 11 comparably sized local authorities within the UK, taking into consideration what parking concessions or permits they issue to allow parking within a CPZ, car park or similar whilst undertaking health-related business for healthcare workers, homecare workers and carers, both paid and unpaid.

Desktop research was undertaken to collect publicly available information regarding the City of Edinburgh Council’s current Essential User Permit scheme and on the 11 comparable local authorities. The information required for the review was presented as case studies and included:

  • Pricing
  • Approximate numbers of permits in circulation
  • Eligibility
  • Parking concessions
  • Maximum stay periods
  • Forms of permit
  • Benefits/drawbacks of schemes.

If some of the information was not publicly available, Project Centre worked closely with local authorities to gain access through issuing Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

Once all 12 case studies had been produced using publicly available information and FOI, several key themes became apparent that could be utilised by the City of Edinburgh Council to improve its Essential User Permit scheme which included virtual permits, pricing structure and the types of permits available.

To increase the understanding of how the current Essential User Permit scheme could be enhanced to improve the flexibility, Project Centre produced further analysis. The 2011 UK Census Data was used to analyse the ‘provision of unpaid care’ to determine the potential permit uptake which may arise from adding an additional parking permit for unpaid carers.

In order to produce a new pricing structure for the existing Essential User Permit and the new parking permit, Project Centre first reviewed the prices of all parking permits which each local authority’s issue using publicly available information. Once the prices for all permits had been determined, the permits related to those available in the City of Edinburgh Council were then extracted for analysis.

As part of the process of supporting the final key theme which the City of Edinburgh Council could utilise for their permit, Project Centre reviewed two operators which could provide virtual permits, Marston Holding’s NSL Apply and RingGo. Both these providers are readily available in Edinburgh and, as such, were on hand to utilise local knowledge and quick response.

Using the information gained from producing the case studies and the additional analysis, we provided the City of Edinburgh Council with three robust and direct recommendations on how to improve their Essential User Permit.

Graham Storrie is regional director for North England and Scotland

Project Centre, part of Marston Holdings, is a multi-disciplinary design, engineering, and landscape architecture consultancy. Its designs have won multiple awards and it is recognised as CIHT Employer of the Year 2021. Project Centre is the headline sponsor at the Traffic + Parking conference in Manchester on 30 November 2021.

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