Case Study: Nottingham Workplace Parking Levy

How it has reduced congestion in the city

In 2012, Nottingham took the unprecedented step to introduce a Workplace Parking Levy (WPL). Covering the whole City Council administrative area, the levy was the first of its kind in Europe.

A Workplace Parking Levy is a charge on employers who provide car parking at work. Employers can either pay the charge themselves or pass the cost on to their staff. Nottingham City Council decided to charge employers who provide 11 or more car parking spaces, to both support small businesses and avoid complicated enforcement issues. There are a number of other of exemptions:

• Blue Badge holder parking places
• Front-line NHS
• Occasional business visitors
• Motorbikes
• Fleet and delivery vehicles

In 2012, the cost was £288 a year per bay. It is currently £458, increasing to £522 in April 2023. The money raised is ring fenced for use on locally identified major transport infrastructure and improvements.

Reactions to the Workplace Parking Levy

Unsurprisingly, when in the planning phase employers and The Chamber of Commerce strongly opposed the plans for the levy. Motoring organisations the AA and the RAC predicted the scheme would damage the economy. Months after its commencement, there were reports of businesses leaving the city because of it.

“In fact businesses come here because of our tram system. Congestion is a great deal less than in other cities,” David Mellen, leader of Nottingham City Council, said to the Financial Times. The numbers back this up, with the number of businesses in Nottingham increasing by more than 2,000 since 2012.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom from businesses, however, with some companies seeing it as a good way of increasing motivation to use a different, more active, mode of transport.

“Our employees use the tram, cycle, bus and some even walk. They have realised buses aren’t so bad and you can have a better quality of life as you arrive at work fresher and leave work fresher,” Adam Bird, co-founder of Nottingham company Esendex, said.

The result / impact

The Workplace Parking Levy was introduced to reduce congestion in Nottingham. It has done that and more! The city has been able to attract grant funding on the back of the success of the scheme, such as money from the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore shop fronts on Carrington Street, which was unlikely to have happened without Nottingham Train Station first being renovated.

In the 1990’s, congestion had been forecast to grow by 15% by 2021. The WPL has successfully reduced congestion growth by 47%.

Some of the improvements funded by the WPL:

Doubling the existing tram system: the tram network now has 50 stops. Pre-pandemic, 20 million trips a year were made on a tram. Importantly, the tram network serves 20 of the 30 largest employers in Nottingham.
Rail Station redevelopment – leading it to become the busiest station in the East Midlands.
Creation of the UK’s first all-electric park and ride.

As a result, more than 40% of journeys into the city centre are now made by public transport.

Carbon benefits of the WPL:

7,840 tonnes of CO2 emissions had been saved (by September 2021)
33% fall in carbon emissions in Nottingham (since 2005)

The WPL has been hailed a success for reducing congestion in Nottingham, and other cities (such as Oxford and Leicester) are starting to look into introducing it too. Sadly Leicester has decided to not go down the Workplace Parking Levy route, despite the success of the scheme in nearby Nottingham. That decision could be a mistake after the disastrous mini-budget with funding for local authorities now being cut. Finding the money for improvements will be even harder, yet the need for change is ever more urgent.

Clean Air Zone

Thanks to the Workplace Parking Levy and upgrading or replacing older buses, the city has been able to meet the air pollution limit without having to implement a Clean Air Zone (CAZ).

New Roads Aren’t the Solution

Nottingham could have gone down the ‘business as usual’ route of building new roads and claiming that it would ease congestion. This approach has been used countless times, despite evidence to show it is not the solution it is claimed to be: stats clearly show new roads lead to more car use, so rather than easing congestion new roads simply make the problem worse.

While Nottingham may not be perfect, it has created a fairer, more inclusive, high quality and less environmentally damaging transport system that many cities in the UK are envious of. It hasn’t come about by chance but by careful planning and investment. If other cities want to tackle these issues, they need to follow Nottingham’s example, not carry on with business as usual and hope against the odds that increasing road capacity will deliver any long term benefits.


Photo credit: Bridget Fox 


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