Tuesday, 4 January 2011

How the government imposes taxes on the cycle hire scheme but removes taxes for electric 'green drivers'

The government wants you to become a "green driver"
Today, the government announced its "intention to allow charging points to be built on streets and in outdoor car parks without the need for planning permission". 


Actually, the statement declared "The Government today outlined more support for green drivers to encourage greater use of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles". I don't know what a 'green driver' looks like but here's one we made earlier on our left. 


I can sort of see why a government might simplify the planning process. Planning permission is time-consuming and costly. If you want to encourage councils, groups or individuals to pursue new ideas, then you go all out to make it easier for them to do so. 


Interesting then, that to install a couple of bicycle racks for the cycle hire scheme involves several stages of planning permission. Could that possibly suggest, as Jim at the Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club opines here, that our new government doesn't give two hoots about cycling? In a way, I think it does.


Just look at the City of London. If you look at this report published here  by the City of London Planning & Transportation Committee, the total cost of implementing the first phase of the cycle hire scheme within the Square Mile cost £484,000. Of that total, more than a quarter (£140,000 to be precise) was wasted purely on planning. So, planning permissions and all the work that involves cost £140,000 in the City of London alone for just a few docking stations. £140,000 so that a few people could moan and groan. And if Ross Lydall at the Evening Standard is right about this, the moans and groans were quite incredible. Things like this: "our beautiful conservation area must not be defaced by this horrible lump of metal" or "Clients leaving the cafes and nightclub in the square are going to be drawn to rented bikes and it doesn’t take a great effort of imagination to foresee the increase in noise and anti social behaviour which would ensue." What's more, the planning complaints meant London was short of 70+ docking stations at launch.


So, the government is handing electric cars two things when it removes the need to obtain planning permission for electric docking stations a) time. It takes a lot less time to just bash a docking station in the ground if you don't have to waste yours efforts receiving twaddle about 'horrible lumps of metal' and b) a massive cost-saving. If you take that £140,000 cost for the planning process in the case of cycle hire docking stations in the City and multiply that across all the cycle hire boroughs, let's assume phase one of the scheme probably cost £1million in planning permission alone. Which was paid for by Transport for London. Which is paid for by the Mayor of London which in turn means our council tax. 


So, the government removes planning permission for 'green drivers'. And does bugger all for those of on bicycles. In fact, it charges Boris Johnson, and therefore everyone who lives in London, an extra £1million or so, just to get his docking stations in the ground. And that's just for phase 1. Let's double that for phase 2.


And let's not even mention the Plug-In Car Grant, in which the government hands you a £5,000 subsidy just for buying one of the things. 


"Drivers' parking woes". With thanks to tomsimpson.org
You have Messrs Pickles, Hammond and Clark to thank for implementing "wider changes to national planning policy this week designed to ease drivers' parking woes". 


I have a better suggestion for easing drivers' parking woes: Don't use your car so much. I have a car. I don't dislike my car. And happily for me, I use it hardly ever. With the exception of cycling through zones four to six in London (which I find oddly terrifying on a bike), I find my bike a rather good alternative up to about 25 miles. Maybe a few tax breaks could be doled out to those of us who don't need a 'green car'. And we could do with an indirect tax break for Boris while you're at it by scrapping the need to obtain planning permission for every cycle hire docking station.