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Inspiration Award: Islington Council

British Parking Awards 2023

01 October 2023
Jimi Ogunyanwo (London Borough of Islington), Nyle Williams and Dan Hanshaw (Smart Transport Hub), Cllr Rowena Champion, Ryan Rodrigues and Rubena Hafizi (LBI), Sara Bailey (The Parking Guru), Tony Ralph (LBI), Christian Constantinides (STH), Paul Moorby OBE (Chipside, sponsor), Vass Constantinides (STH) and Mark Steel


London is faced with dangerous levels of air pollution, impacting public health, and contributing to climate change. Road vehicles are the single biggest cause of London’s air pollution, producing nearly half of all nitrogen oxides and particulate matter in the air we breathe, making it crucial to find effective solutions.

The efforts undertaken by Islington Council to reduce carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through its innovative EV permit charging programme demonstrates the borough’s dedicated commitment to delivering transformative action in tackling air pollution and promoting sustainable outcomes. The parking team in Islington has delivered a UK-first parking permit scheme for electric vehicles (EVs), embedding a data-led strategy to achieving cleaner air through the inclusion of hierarchy charging for EVs based on battery size for residential parking permits.

Cllr Rowena Champion, Islington Council’s executive member for environment, air quality, and transport, says: “There’s more that we all can and must do to tackle the climate emergency, especially following the World Health Organization’s decision to set tougher global air pollution targets.”

Islington Council declared a climate emergency in June 2019, recognising the need to drastically reduce carbon emissions in the borough. The council made a pledge to work towards being a net zero borough by 2030, and Census data shows that less than 30% of households in Islington have access to a car. This supports their continued emphasis on addressing car ownership through transport policy directives, promoting public and active travel.

Taking action to address the urgent need to reduce emissions, the team at Islington, led by assistant director of parking Rubena Hafizi, championed by environment director Tony Ralph and Cllr Rowan Champion, partnered with Smart Transport Hub to develop a quantitative hierarchy model specifically for EVs.

The parking team was strengthened by The Parking Guru’s Sara Bailey and the council’s transport strategy and parking teams, and they worked together to design the scheme that directly and indirectly reduces pollutant emissions while providing a sustainable solution for promoting cleaner air and aims to reduce demand for road space. This will, in turn, be exchanged for increased green space that serves to improve surface water run-off and reduce the ‘heat island’ effect.

Islington’s Tony Ralph, who has led the project, says: “Islington is a driving force in promoting active travel. This is one of many schemes we have introduced to achieve our ambitions to become a net zero carbon borough and create a cleaner and safer environment for our residents.”

Replacing petrol and diesel vehicles with electric vehicles remains a national and local strategy for improving local air quality by reducing harmful emissions such as nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide. Islington has supported its residents in transitioning to electric vehicles by providing an on-street charging infrastructure; crucial as many Islington residents lack off-street parking, making it challenging to charge EVs at home.

While acknowledging the environmental benefits of EVs, Islington also recognises that EVs as motorised vehicles contribute to road congestion, road safety issues and particulate matter (PM). Gov.UK states: “Around half of UK concentrations of PM comes from anthropogenic sources in the UK such as domestic wood burning and tyre and brake wear from vehicles” and “exposure to PM can result in serious impacts to health, especially in vulnerable groups of people such as the young, elderly, and those with respiratory problems”.

One key aspect of the London Borough of Islington’s EV permit charging programme is the model determines emissions-based permit pricing based on battery size, ensuring that EVs are accurately classified and charged accordingly after the team researched different ways in which EVs could be categorised in respect of their impact on the environment. In addition to this the scheme also delivers:
Innovative pricing strategy: Islington has been at the forefront of permit strategies since 2011 when it introduced an emissions-based system for internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.
Streamlined and fair charges: The permit scheme simplifies and aligns charges for both ICE vehicles and EVs, ensuring fairness across the board. By retaining the diesel surcharge, Islington acknowledges the higher impact of diesel emissions compared to petrol vehicles. This strategic approach not only incentivises the adoption of cleaner vehicles but also encourages responsible vehicle choices.
Equity in cost allocation: Islington has sought to ensure that the permit charging system is equitable for all residents. Previously, surcharges were imposed for permits purchased within a span of fewer than 12 months. Recognising the financial burden this imposed on those who can least afford it, Islington made a progressive move by removing these surcharges. This decision demonstrates the borough’s commitment to fairness and its dedication to making sustainable choices accessible to everyone.
Minimum permit charges: ICE vehicles pay £100 and it is £50 for EV’s, recognising that even small vehicles and EVs still have a detrimental impact on congestion, road traffic accidents and emissions, and also take up precious public realm space that could more valuably be used for an alternative purpose.

Islington’s EV permit charging programme is an innovative, effective, and sustainable initiative that builds awareness of the need to continue to reduce transport emissions through the incentivisation of moving to sustainable travel options, demonstrates ingenuity in implementation, and provides a replicable model for other towns and cities. By combining supportive policies, equitable infrastructure, renewable energy integration, and community engagement, the team in Islington feel they have set an exemplary standard for achieving cleaner air and reducing carbon and GHG emissions.

Rubena Hafizi, Islington’s assistant director of parking services, who led the team on policy design and implementation, says: “Tackling the climate emergency brings huge benefits to all of us – including more pleasant, less polluted streets – and we all have a role to play in achieving this.”

Praise for the project

The project has been welcomed by experts from the wider parking and traffic management sector. Nick Ruxton-Boyle, director of environment at Marston Holdings, wrote in his Air Quality News blog: “Well done I say to the parking team in Islington for successfully walking the narrow tightrope between encouraging electric mobility and discouraging larger vehicles.”

Ann Snelson, founder of the consultancy Lead with Sustainability: “A massive well done to Rubena Hafizi and Sara Bailey for following through on Islington Council’s clean air, emissions and climate change objectives by reducing car/vehicle use (no matter what type) across the borough. They’ve now become the first council team to introduce parking permits for electric vehicles as well as diesel and petrol ones. The pricing varies by size of battery – so encourages people towards the smallest, most sustainable vehicles.”

Mark Frost, director at Fern Consulting and Hounslow’s former assistant director of parking, transport and environmental strategy: “Clearly, Islington officers are right that the larger EVs have a far bigger footprint – literally and in terms of carbon and this should be recognised in policy in some way. This innovative variable tariff, still rewarding the most efficient EVs, whilst highlighting the impact of larger EVs, is potentially an elegant way forward – and I suspect this will be the first of many such schemes.”

A positive parking policy

Cllr Rowena Champion, Islington Council’s executive member for environment, air quality and transport

Here in Islington, we’re determined to create a more equal borough, where streets are cleaner, greener, and more sustainable for all. Doing so is crucial in tackling the climate emergency, which is especially important in Islington as we are one of the six London boroughs most susceptible to climate change.

As part of our mission to reimagine streets, we’ve introduced seven low-traffic neighbourhoods, 35 School Streets, and a network of cycleways, to help improve air quality and to make it easier to walk, cycle, and wheel. The huge progress we’ve made is reflected in Islington being recognised as the top-performing inner-London borough in the Healthy Streets Scorecard – which ranks boroughs based on their action to create greener streets – three years in a row.

According to data from the 2021 Census, 33% of households in Islington own a private vehicle – that’s the second lowest of any London borough. It’s yet another reason why reimagining our streets, so that they’re better suited to walking, cycling, and wheeling, is so vitally important.

We’re taking a bold approach to creating a greener borough, and that extends to our parking policy. Last year, we carried out a full review of our parking charges, to support our wider ambitions to encourage local people to switch to sustainable transport, and to ensure that charges more accurately reflect the pollution that they create.

The changes that we’ve made – which were subject to statutory consultation and approval by our executive committee – included:

  • Introducing Europe’s first multi-band parking permit scheme for electric vehicles, with charges ranging from £50 for a battery size of 1-39kwh, to £140 for vehicles with batteries of 90kwh.
  • Bringing in a £1 per day short-stay parking for petrol motorbikes and 50p per day for electric motorbikes, to help encourage residents to take trips on foot, bike, and wheel.
  • Introducing a new seven-tier charging system for resident-permits, to simplify the old system.
  • Introducing new charges for households wanting to park more than one vehicle on the street.

The ground-breaking element of the changes was the introduction of the hierarchical charges for electric vehicles. While electric vehicles mostly have less environmental impact than petrol and diesel vehicles, they nevertheless cause pollution through the release of tiny particulates from the brakes and tyres, which can be breathed in and cause harm.

Electric vehicles also contribute to congestion and take up road space, making roads less safe for people who are walking or cycling. Like petrol and diesel vehicles, they also take up valuable parking space, which could instead be devoted to environmentally-friendly measures like greening or tree planting.

The decision to reimagine parking charges in this way is another example of Islington’s forward-thinking approach, and we look forward in seeing the positive benefits it brings in creating more pleasant, less polluted streets for all.

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