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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 October 2006, 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK
Drivers are a 'soft target'
Queues of cars on the motorway
Motoring organisations say drivers are being unnecessarily targeted
Motoring groups and politicians have criticised a council's plans to penalise big-car owners, and described drivers as a "soft target".

Richmond upon Thames council has revealed it is considering linking the cost of parking to the size of cars.

Friends of the Earth said the proposal was a "step in the right direction".

But Mike Rutherford from the Motorists' Association believes the council is targeting drivers unnecessarily.

"Most pollution is coming not from a car at all," he told the BBC's Breakfast programme.

"Cars account for about roughly 20%... of pollution, which means that 80% of the pollution is not from cars.

"It's from things like central heating boilers, from people's electrical appliances, from businesses. maybe from council offices.

If people's income tax ... was raised four and a half times overnight I think there'd be absolute outrage
Tim Pollard, deputy editor of What Car Magazine

"So I think it's important we put the problem of the car into context. It is 20% of the problem at most."

Environment campaigners welcomed the move, but said more needed to be done.

Friends of the Earth senior transport campaigner Tony Bosworth said: "Encouraging people to use fuel-efficient cars is a key way of tackling change, so the Richmond scheme is an important step in the right direction.

"But the real power here lies with the chancellor, who must use the Budget to significantly raise road tax on gas-guzzlers and cut it for the most fuel-efficient cars."

Motoring 'tax'

Deputy Editor of What Car Magazine, Tim Pollard, told BBC Five Live the scheme meant a new tax on the motorist.

He said: "We know that people have got to be encouraged into cleaner cars, but when Richmond Council are talking about raising from 100 a year to 450 a year for your second car if it's a real gas guzzler, that's an enormous increase.

"If people's income tax ... was raised four and a half times overnight I think there'd be absolute outrage, and yet somehow the motorist has become a soft target."

Some people only use their cars at weekends so they are actually being penalised for what they own and not how they use it
AA Motoring Trust

Other motoring groups wanted to see more incentives for green car-owners rather than penalties.

Sheila Rainger, spokeswoman for the RAC Foundation, said: "We are in favour of encouraging people to choose greener, more efficient cars but we'd much rather see incentives than penalties.

"Westminster Council gives electric cars free parking. We think that is more likely to promote greener cars than heavy measures against bigger cars."

'Too far'

The AA Motoring Trust said it feared the plan to penalise the owners of gas-guzzling vehicles would not target the right drivers.

Spokesman Paul Watters said: "To use them to encourage some sort of shift in car ownership type is probably going a bit too far.

"Residents who rarely use their vehicles would be hit because of what their car is, not what it does.

"Some people only use their cars at weekends so they are actually being penalised for what they own and not how they use it."

He said there is some merit in emissions incentive schemes to help people decide what new cars to buy.

But he said: "There aren't many cars in the lower CO2 band that would be rewarded by the Richmond scheme."

Climate change is the greatest threat we face and anything that gets people out of gas guzzlers and into less polluting cars has to be welcomed
Greenpeace

'Raising money'

Politicians also raised questions about the plans.

Conservative group leader on Richmond Council, Nicholas True, told BBC Five Live he believed the scheme was about raising money.

He said: "This is a good old-fashioned tax increase and we're following the headline."

London Assembly Conservative Member Tony Arbour said it was unfair to target Richmond's drivers when the area did not have the same quality of transport links as the rest of London.

"Tackling harmful emissions is of utmost importance, not only in Richmond but also across London," he said.

I congratulate Richmond on this decision
Mayor of London Ken Livingstone

"But, since Richmond lacks some of the more expansive public transport networks enjoyed by other parts of London, many will be left with little option but to suffer these costs - a result which won't necessarily have a significant impact on levels of emissions, but will have an impact on council revenues."

Climate change

But Mayor of London Ken Livingstone and environmental groups welcomed the Richmond plans.

Mr Livingstone said: "I congratulate Richmond on this decision.

"Climate change is the biggest threat that we are facing and transport in London contributes 21% of our carbon emissions.

"London has established itself as the only major city in the world where people are shifting from cars to public transport, cycling and walking and I have asked Transport for London to look at a higher level of the congestion charge to discourage gas-guzzling cars like the larger 4x4s."

A Greenpeace spokesman said: "We welcome any move to encourage people to drive more fuel-efficient cars.

"Climate change is the greatest threat we face and anything that gets people out of gas guzzlers and into less polluting cars has to be welcomed."




SEE ALSO
C-charge drivers 'pay next day'
16 Jun 06 |  London
Campaign to target gas guzzlers
13 Jun 06 |  London

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